YAC, School Board Discuss Facilities

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

No formal proposal has been adopted, but the need for an overhaul of the Glenwood Community School District’s athletic complex is once again being discussed.

Last Monday, Nov. 20, members of the Glenwood Board of Education and the Youth Action Committee (YAC), a group spearheading a fundraising effort to upgrade the district’s aging athletic complex, engaged in a 30-minute meeting. Glenwood Superintendent Devin Embray said the meeting was positive with both sides appearing to be on the same page about facilities improvements and a range of possible financial solutions in what he called a “brainstorming session.”

The board and the committee had met previously, following a failed Physical Plant and Equipment  Levy (PPEL) referendum last April that would have funded the $6 million in improvements. That measure garnered just 39 percent of the votes and has been the subject of debate and discussion within the community since its failure.

Last week’s meeting, which took place during the board’s regularly scheduled work session, was the first time the two sides had an open dialogue on the project since the April vote. More than 20 community members, most of them YAC committee members, were in attendance at the meeting.

Topics of discussions included the current state of the facilities, the scope of the proposed improvements, areas of cost-cutting and the possibility of bringing another PPEL vote to district residents.
While Embray said the discussion was good and potential ideas were shared on both sides, no plans for the project are set in stone and no decision has been made on a second PPEL vote.

“I felt like it was a positive meeting with a great dialogue,” Embray said. “There was good feedback between people that  had talked to people who voted yes and voted no. They took in a lot of information that they turned into some positive dialogue. Whether that means we’re definitely going to a vote or not, we’re not there yet.”

Darren Thomas, spokesperson for the Youth Action Committee, agreed the meeting was a positive step.

“We’ve been working really well with the board and everyone is really positive,” said Thomas, who has worked with YAC since its founding three years ago. “We all want the best solution possible. Our committee and the board are trying to come up with a good plan and best way to do things. We work really well together.”

YAC members will likely meet amongst themselves over the next few weeks and possibly return to the district’s December board meeting to talk again or present a proposal.

“It’s all kind of in limbo right now,” Embray said. “But if you had to pin me down about what happened at the meeting, I’d say it looked promising that YAC and the board were going to get on the same page.”
When asked if he felt like that mean the board was leaning toward putting together another measure for a district-wide vote, Embray was reluctant to speak for the board, but did say, “It appeared to me like they were but I don’t know that for sure.”

The earliest the board could seek a PPEL vote would be February 2018.

Thomas said YAC supports the idea of a second PPEL vote with a renewed emphasis on how exactly the public money will be spent and how the committee’s private fundraising efforts will partner on the project.

“We would like to see something happen to move forward,” Thomas said. “We want to move forward. We need this to happen soon. The PPEL is the best option, and after the last time, learning about it like we did, you save so much in time and interest (payments) doing it that way. It’s really the best way to go.”

Thomas went on to say a PPEL bond, as opposed to a piecemeal effort to overhaul the athletic complex, would save the district several years and nearly $2 million.

Compounding the board’s decisions is the pressing needs of the athletic facility right now. The track at Ram Memorial Field is more than 17 years old and in dire need of replacement.

“We’re on borrowed time with the track,” Embray said.

The district’s contractor has so far re-patched and filled cracks, while addressing the uneven surface, but those are band-aids on a track well past its prime.

Embray said the general feeling is if the board appears to be going to another vote, then the district would probably lean toward “doing the best possible patch job we can do” to get though the 2018 track season. If it looked like the board would not  be going forward with a vote, then the district would have to look at replacing the track, something they could not afford until 2019, according to Embray.

The cost of new track is estimated to cost $500,000.