Town of Meeker will own old building, site if new elementary school is built

MEEKER — While there’s been a great deal of public discussion about the site of the proposed new elementary school, there has also been a lot of open and private speculation about the future of the current elementary school building. It has been suggested that the 70-plus year old building would be converted to county offices and/or a justice center — including an expanded county jail — when and if the new elementary school is built.
During a presentation by the Citizens for Meeker Schools to the town board of trustees, group representative Margie Joy said, “People are jumping to conclusions.” She asked the board to help the group “get the facts out” about the existing property and about the proposed plan for a new elementary school and renovations to the middle school and high school, so that voters can make well-informed decisions when they fill out their November ballots.
The school district will have a two-part initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot: the first part includes a request for voter-approval of a permanent mill levy override that helps fund staffing and books; the second part of the initiative is for a $24 million bond for capital improvements including construction of a 70,000 square foot new elementary school to be built near the Meeker Recreation Center on Sulphur Creek Road and major improvements on both the Meeker High School and Barone Middle School to bring those buildings up to standards for energy efficiency and safety, as well as general maintenance.
According to Joy, the new tax would equate to a $90 increase for the average resident and a $176 increase for commercial taxpayers. Upwards of 80 percent of the $24 million would come from property taxes paid by the oil and gas industry.
If the initiatives pass and a new elementary school is built, ownership of the current elementary school site — and the building — would revert to the Town of Meeker.
Use of the land and the building — which has problems with its foundation, roof, water leaks and asbestos in the walls, ceilings and floors — would be determined by the Town of Meeker. The town would also become responsible for maintenance costs. As of now, no decisions have been made for the future of the site.
“If in fact this bond issue passes and we have a new elementary school in two years, we’re left with a lovely square block downtown with a building on it that we would need to decide what to do with,” said Mayor Mandi Etheridge.
The board agreed to draft a resolution in support of the initiative.