North Scott School Board members unveiled a five-year project list totaling $19 million, and disclosed drawings for a new agricultural research center and a separate YMCA fitness center with a pool.
The projects are part of a $46 million wish list compiled by five concurrent committees that have been studying the projects for about two years.
Board members meeting Monday at the administration center also cast their first split vote in years, authorizing $700,000 to buy property on the northwest corner of LeClaire Road and Scott Park Road (old Highway 61) for a new bus barn, one of the projects in the five-year plan.
Superintendent Joe Stutting said the board will more fully discuss the five-year plan at the 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 28, board meeting. But each project will still require a full board vote. The biggest projects will face voter confirmation through referenda.
Those projects include:
• A $15.6 million regional agricultural center. The district envisions a 77,200-square-foot building on 18.8 acres of the Arp family farm on South First Street purchased by the district for $507,600 in October 2017.
Stutting said he expects the district’s share to be up to $8 million, with the rest coming from prospective partners, including the Eastern Iowa Community College District, other schools, and perhaps corporate support. “The district cannot afford this building by itself. That’s why we need partners,” he said.
• A $14.8 million YMCA fitness center and pool. Drawings unveiled Monday show a six-lane, 5,650-square-foot pool, a 7,200-square-foot gym with separate lockers and a child care area. The center would be on the west side of the land at Third Avenue and East LeClaire Road.
Stutting said the district’s share would be an estimated $7 million, with the city of Eldridge, Scott County YMCA and others contributing the balance. He said the district’s share would be funded through a Public Education Recreational Levy, which would require a public vote.
“What I like about it is it puts it out to voters a final time,” board member Donn Wilmott said.
Those two projects expend about $15 million on the district’s $19 million priority project list. Other projects prioritized by Stutting include:
• Solar panels at Glenn Elementary, $178,000;
• Indoor batting cage and practice facility near the baseball fields for $800,000. The Silver Bullet steel shed on First Street is scheduled for demolition by end of June;
• A transit facility to replace the bus barn by the administration center. Board members voted Monday to pay $700,000 for an eight-acre lot and warehouse at East LeClaire Road and Scott Park Road. Stutting estimated total cost with renovations to be $2.3 million;
• Orchestra Room addition for the high school for $350,625;
• Football stadium press box expansion for $20,938;
• Welding shop addition for $63,750;
• Moving the softball field to a new ballfield complex east of First Street for $1.023 million;
• Softball restrooms and concession stand for $111,563. Also under consideration is artificial football field turf, for $1.15 million.
“Tonight, we lay it all out. We’ll bring it back to the board at the next meeting. The goal would be to have a five-year plan approved,” Stutting said. “This will not be set in stone. Every project will still have to be approved on its own.”
The five-year plan will include more modest projects at each elementary, including expansion of Shepard Elementary in Long Grove. “If I had to predict, I would say this building will fill up before Ed White will fill up,” Stutting said.
Board votes 6-1 for new bus barn
The board voted 6-1 to buy about eight acres, including existing garage and offices the district can use as soon as the existing tenant moves.
The board met in a closed session earlier this month to discuss the purchase opportunity that Stutting said provides a quick solution for the buses, as well as additional storage space for the district.
“This is not just a bus garage. It solves multiple issues and opens a lot of opportunity for us,” he said. He said the district will need bigger propane tanks as the district moves away from diesel buses. It also frees up existing bus barn space to use for technical education.
Style Development Corp., a firm owned by Richard and Sally Klemme of Bettendorf, owns the 7.76-acre parcel. Style purchased the building in 2014 for $495,000, according to county assessment records. It includes a 25,250-square-foot warehouse currently rented to a tenant through April 2020.
District transportation director Luann Baetke said the purchase provides much needed space, and another important amenity lacking in the current garage. “We’re going to have two bathrooms.”
Board member Molly Bergfeld said her “no” vote expresses disappointment that the bus barn no longer was part of the ag research center, as initially discussed by the board.
Earlier plans included the bus barn next to the ag center. Bergfeld said she envisioned the ag center offering more comprehensive tech training, including diesel engine maintenance that might have involved students. She said this purchase leads the district away from a more comprehensive trade-and-tech campus she had hoped for.
“I was excited about the purchase of land as a campus to serve upper class members,” she said of the initial ag building committee discussions. “Now it will be split.”
She also disagreed with allowing a tenant to remain on the new bus barn property under district ownership into April 2020.
Board president Glen Keppy said he recognizes her concerns, but the opportunity to buy the property was too good to pass up.
“I appreciate your comments,” he told Bergfeld. “But it’s clear from the owner that he wants it to happen the way it has been presented. All of us have had to work through something that isn’t crystal clear.”
While she disagreed with the board majority, Bergfeld said after the meeting she “trusted Joe implicitly” to negotiate with the tenant.
The president of the classified staff employee group urged board members to reach an agreement better than the agreement reached last year.
Kerry Madden, a reading and special ed aide at the junior high, said the classified staff of classroom support workers settled first last year, then saw other unions reach better deals.
“It was a kick in the gut,” Madden said in a statement to the board. “One to two percent on a $20,000 salary is a lot different than the same on a $40,000 or $80,000 salary,” she said. “After 22 years with the North Scott District, I still don’t make more than $20,000.”
The classified staff accepted a 1.65-percent increase in 2017 and an across-the-board 10-cents-per-hour increase in 2018. This year’s negotiations resume May 20.
Board chairman Keppy thanked Madden for her work and remarks. “I value the fact you make North Scott a great place for our kiddos. I also appreciate that the best negotiation takes place at the table. I appreciate your comments, but negotiations take place at the table.”
Stutting said union members sent letters directly to board members, as well as letters to the editor published in The North Scott Press.
Board members also unanimously approved employee handbooks for teachers, administrators, mid-management, bus drivers and non-represented employees.
The district still has to reach agreements with classified support employees represented by the Service Employees International Union, and child care employees. Stutting said the handbooks include identical benefit packages that used to be included in union negotiations.
The board also:
• Accepted the Association of School Business Officials 36th annual certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting Award for the district;
• Approved a 2019 graduation list of 222 students;
• Set a budget amendment public hearing at the next board meeting, Tuesday, May 28. The amendment reallocates about 1 percent of the school’s budget without changing overall spending, Stutting said.
• Raised food service fees a dime for adult breakfasts and lunches, but left student rates alone for the third year in a row. Student lunches remain $2.60 at the elementary schools, $2.85 at the junior high and high school, and $3.10 for a specialty box lunch. Daycare student lunches increase a dime to $3.80. Adult lunches are up a dime to $2.30.
• Renewed substitute and guest staff pay at the current rate for another year.