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Jasper County Tribune

C-M takes step forward in facility maintenance plan

COLFAX – After months of planning, the Colfax-Mingo School Board took a step in developing a long-term facility plan during Monday’s special board meeting.

After an evening of discussion, the board decided to begin the search for an architectural firm to develop the district’s long-term facility plan.

“We are not getting a bond issued. We are just getting information about it,” superintendent Jim Verlengia said. “We can decide ‘No, no, no, we are not going to do this.’ That is OK too, but at least we will have the data so we can put the stake in the ground somewhere.”

For several months, the board has been working on developing a long-term facility maintenance plan. After organizing a committee to help shape the plan, the board approved a list of facility and maintenance projects for the 2018-19 school year during the regular board meeting April 16.

This approved list outlines the schedule for upcoming projects and their potential costs, which the superintendent said will help better facilitate and organize the district’s facility and maintenance goals. These projects will be funded by the district’s PPEL/SAVE dollars.

While this plan includes items such as building maintenance, security upgrades and athletic field improvements, Verlengia said it does not outline any plan for major building projects or a long-range facility plan.

“We have to discuss this and we have to do this now. It has to be here tonight. This group of five needs to say, ‘Yes we want a bond issued. Yes we want $10 million,” board member Doug Van Dyke said. “We can’t drag our feet. Here we are in the May meeting, then it is going to be the June meeting. If we want to do something out there, we’ve got to do it.”

The district previously hired the the architectural firm Struxture Architects to develop the “Educational Best Practices” facility plan. The firm surveyed students, support staff, teachers, administrators and focus groups to see what they believe the district needs to address, build or renovate in relation to its facilities. The long-term plan had an overall estimated cost of about $10 million, which included the addition of an athletic complex.

Verlengia said the district aims to use the “Educational Best Practices” plan as a base to build on the development of the new plan. But as the plan was developed about four years ago, the district leaders said the costs associated with that plan have changed, and possibly the school and community’s facilty needs, interests and desires as well.

“We have to start from scratch and really find out what we need,” board vice-president Jan Myers said. “We need to get a bond issued. We have been sitting on this forever.”

According to the superintendent, the district plans to have firm in place by August, to allow enough time to potentially issue a bond in regards to their plan by March 5, 2019. A bond could also be put to vote the first Tuesday of May, August and November if the district aims to issue a bond in 2019.

“It is our turn to try. Doesn’t mean we have to pass it. It’s just our turn to step up for those kids and try,” Verlengia said. “We’ve got to be very stragetic about we are doing, very clear, very transparent, very informative, but we just need to focus on that.”

The superintendent said once a firm is selcted, the district plans to have the firm gather community input, from hosting surveys to holding community forums. The district leaders said they hope to explore more solutions to recieve more input from the community.

“I think there should be more transparency with the community overall. I posted about this on Facebook today and sent out a few emails, but there is no communication from the school itself. We get text messages about PTA meetings. activities – multiple text messages a day – but never anything with the board,” Mingo resident Kendra Perry said during the meeting’s recognition of guests. “I like what you guys are doing in terms of facility planning ... but if you are seeking input, how are you making your decisions? How do you know what the community wants to do?”

Board members Brandie Gean and Patrick Utz were not in attendance at the meeting.

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at areyes@jaspercountytribune.com

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