School board chooses elementary site

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MEEKER — “We have a site.”
These were the words of Meeker Re-1 School Board President Mary Strang after last Thursday’s vote to approve a final site for a new elementary school.
One dissenting vote — board Vice President Ed Coryell — failed to hold up the long process that led to Thursday’s vote. That vote allows the process to go forward with plans for a $24 million bond issue on the November ballot and more specific design and background work for the site.
“There have been some ups and downs in my decision process,” Strang told the other board members and audience.
All of the possible sites are near the current high school and middle school. A months-long evaluation process helped board members, the public and project consultants narrow down to the so-called Sites 2 and 3. Site 2B, slightly lower on the hill, wasthe site chosen.
“My feelings haven’t changed since we got the first survey,” Coryell said. “It doesn’t make any sense to put it (the school) in a hole.”
Coryell was referring to the fact that Site 3 was on the ridge above the other schools and Meeker Recreation Center. The plans for Sites 2 and 2B call for cutting into the side of the ridge so that part of the building is up against the rock. But an e-mail from Neenan Archistructure said Site 2 is 18 feet above the flood plain and Site 3 probably would result in $770,000 in road costs because of the need to keep the road grade at 8 percent.
Site 3 also would have made it easier to build gravity flow sewer lines. There has been some debate about having gravity feed versus adding a pumping station to the project.
“I feel like Site 2B is a better choice for a lot of reasons,” Board Member Kai Turner explained after Coryell’s comments.
“It was a tough decision. We put a lot of thought into it,” Turner said, adding that as the design process moves ahead, “it’s (the school) going to be better than we expect.”
Board member Dr. Paul Nielson said the road costs for Site 3 would be as high as the costs for the pumping station for Site 2B. He also noted that the students would be seen from the recreation center better at site 2B than at site 3, adding to the children’s safety.
“I don’t like the wind factor up on top of the ridge,” Nielson added.
Jerry Oldland reminded his fellow board members and public that Site 2B is only down the hill about 20 feet from Site 3.
Not having a new school would be a great injustice to our children, Ben Rogers said. He added that he didn’t think the exact location was “set in stone” and could be modified if necessary.
Board member Mindy Burke said her decision to go with the modified Site 2B resulted from conversations with “numerous people around town.”
After the vote, high school science and math teacher Bob Dorsett, M.D., thanked the board for their extra effort in looking at the alternatives and taking into consideration a variety of factors in making their decisions.
Dorsett was against Site 3 in particular because of the effect it would have on the ecosystem.
The next step is to have RBC Bonding prepare information and begin the process for the November bond measure. A representative from RBC Bonding will be at the next meeting July 8 at 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend.