Voters approve school renovation bonds

School improvement measure passes by nearly 2-to-1 margin

Posted: Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Juneau voters approved by a nearly 2-to-1 margin on Tuesday $6.945 million in bonds to finish the renovation of Floyd Dryden Middle School and replace rusty water pipes at Harborview Elementary School.

Of the votes counted Tuesday night, 5,249 voters said yes to the bonds, and 3,002 said no. The count included absentee ballots cast through Sunday.

Downtown voter Kerry Kirkpatrick voted for the school bonds because, "it seems like they keep building the schools but don't look at the maintenance of the schools."

With interest, the bonds are expected to cost $8.99 million. School district officials expect the state will reimburse 70 percent of the total costs - the principal and interest - of the bonds. That would leave locals with nearly $2.7 million to pay off.

Property taxpayers would pay about $10 per $100,000 of assessed value for 10 years, the city estimates.

The work at Dryden, a 31-year-old, 675-student middle school in the Mendenhall Valley, would be the second and last phase of a renovation that began this summer. The first phase added a new roof and improved the sixth- and seventh-grade wings.

The second phase is estimated to cost $6.523 million, of which $4.9 million will be for construction, said Joe Mueller, the school district's facilities manager.

The projected work includes recarpeting the eighth-grade wing and replacing its doors, flooring, ceilings, lockers, casework and plumbing fixtures. The gymnasium will get an overhead system to store wrestling mats.

The budget includes $464,000 for furnishings, such as desks and chairs, for the entire school.

The project also will recoat the school's concrete exterior, replace exterior windows and doors, extend the outdoor canopy where students wait for buses, replace sidewalks and exterior lights, resurface the parking lot, replace the gym bleachers, replace two boilers and an oil tank and add an emergency generator.

The work might take place in the summer of 2005, Mueller said.

The bonds also included $422,000 to replace rusting galvanized steel water pipes at Harborview Elementary School downtown.

The water has been discolored for years, and the water pressure has declined as rust and other sediment built up. Studies show that the water isn't unhealthy, but it tastes "horrible" and many students are unwilling to drink from the school's water fountains, Principal Kathi Yanamura has said.

Some residents who voted against the bonds were concerned about the accumulation of school bonds in recent years, such as the $25 million renovation of Juneau-Douglas High School, still going on; plans for a nearly $61 million high school in the Valley; and the $5.4 million first phase of renovations at Floyd Dryden Middle School.

"I guess I'm concerned that they don't have a long-range plan that's endorsed by all the players in this," said Mark Thorson, a downtown voter who voted against the school bonds.

Thorson referred to some disagreements between the Juneau School Board and the Juneau Assembly about the extent of recent school construction projects such as the Valley high school.

Thorson said his property taxes have gone up considerably in recent years, and he's also concerned about the city's ability to borrow in the future as it approaches its limit on bonded debt.

"How do all these projects that the school district is proposing stack up against other projects in the city?" he said.

• Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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