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District Weighing Athletic Complex Funding Options

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

Nearly two months after district voters said no to a 10-year Physical Plant and Equipment Levy to fund a $6 million overhaul to the aging Glenwood Athletic Complex, the Glenwood Community School District Board of Directors met last Monday to discuss the future of the site and its much needed upgrades.

The athletic facility was a primary topic at last week’s work session as the board mulled plans for updating the facility going forward. The plan, presented as part of the district’s Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) referendum, called for a new playing surface, seats, track surface and locker room, press box and restroom upgrades and improved traffic access.

With a prioritized list of eight improvement projects with cost and timeline estimates by the district’s architects, La Crosse, Wis.-based HSR Associates, Inc., in hand, the board attempted to put together “puzzle pieces” of a staged overhaul in place.

HSR had suggested staging one project per year utilizing the district’s Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) dollars it receives through its one-cent sales tax levy find.

Glenwood Superintendent Devin Embray didn’t rule out using the SAVE fund for the upgrades but said that a “one project a year” timeline, with the increases in construction and contingency costs and the amount of money the district would have each year to put toward the project, wasn’t feasible.

“We started playing a chase game in terms of the amount of money we had each year,” Embray said. “When we got to step four on our list it was 2050 and in doing just half the projects we were already at a price tag of $8.3 million.”
Embray added, “It’s obvious we will not be able to do that without some sort of support from either donations or some sort of a bond vote.”

Prior to the rejection of the PPEL in April, Embray had said the board would not pursue a second tax funded referendum to pay for the athletic complex and instead would use its SAVE dollars to pay for the improvements in a multi-year effort.  In recent years, the district used its one-cent sales tax levy fund to pay for the $3.8 million auxiliary gym project at the high school.

The SAVE option still exists among a handful of other options the board is considering, Embray added, but no clear plan emerged from Monday’s meeting.

“The board is at a crossroads, so to speak, as what to do and how to communicate that out,” Embray said of the piecemeal effort. “They kind of feel like maybe they should have communicated out before the vote what it would cost (doing the project in stages) and maybe it would have changed peoples minds.”

The board plans to meet with the Youth Action Committee, a group made up of area residents who spearheaded the architectural rendering of the new athletic complex and presented the board with the idea of using PPEL funds after first unsuccessfully pursing private funding.

Following the regular June school board meeting, the board and YAC will hold a public work session to discuss both public and private financing options.

Embray wouldn’t rule out a second PPEL vote but also wouldn’t say the board was seriously considering the option either.

“I think it’s an option but I’m not sure how much of an option,” he said.
The superintendent had said previously the timing of the April 4 vote, coming just after the city and county announced property tax increases, might have turned voters off to the PPEL.

“The vote was such a tough result but trying to tear apart that and analyze why,” Embray said. “How much of it was if people didn’t like the project itself versus it was the only thing voters could say no to in regards to increased taxes across all three entities?

“Did we become the whipping child between the county and the city? I don’t know because they just went ahead and did and we needed the say of the people and it was too much at one time.”