LC board reviews public input

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LIBERTY CENTER - While the Liberty Center Local Schools Board of Education Monday weighed site options for new facilities, it also reviewed public input on the matter.

Liberty Center Local Schools Superintendent Kristi Thompson reported to the board with results from both an online survey and data collected by Garmann-Miller Architects and Engineers of Minster, Ohio, following a community meeting held last week.

Continuing to utilize an online survey available on the district’s website, Thompson reported a total of 164 users have taken the survey. Each question asked allows the user to also comment on the subject, and Thompson said these comments have been used to develop the frequently asked questions (FAQs) section available on the website.

The online survey indicates 62.9 percent of those polled would prefer to see an entirely new kindergarten through grade 12 building as opposed to utilizing the newest section of the present building in the project. Of those 62.9 percent, 67 users (40.9 percent of the overall polling) supported the use of a new site as opposed to utilizing the current campus.

When polled about the planning for the facility, users sided with safety and building security as the top priority, with 87 selecting the option. Ensuring the district has an up-to-date building followed closely with 72 users. Other options included student health (which would include factors such as air quality), having the latest technology and the location of the building.

Users were nearly split on the decision to build a one- or two-story facility, with 53 percent siding with a one-story building. With the public weighing in on the poll, 59.7 percent preferred a new site for the facility.

In looking at a potential levy, those polled indicated 55.5 percent would side with the levy no matter which project option is chosen. Those who would not support a levy regardless of the decision weighed in at 14.6 percent. A total of 18.3 percent of those polled indicated they would only support the levy if an entirely new facility was constructed.

According to the data collected from the community meeting, Garmann-Miller reported the majority of those in attendance were either a parent with children attending the district or a grandparent/retired community member. These groups attributed for a total of 83.34 percent of those in attendance.

Previously, Garmann-Miller made a recommendation to construct a new K-12 facility, based on the estimation that necessary renovations to the current facilities would cost more than 67 percent of the cost of constructing the new building. Of the 70 community members in attendance, 90 percent either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the recommendation.

At the community meeting, 55.07 percent wanted to see a new facility on a new site, while 21.74 percent wanted to see a new facility on the existing site. A total of 18.84 percent said they would support either site option.

When asked about a levy preference, 43.75 percent indicated they would favor a combination property tax and income tax. Those preferring property tax only were 21.88 percent and those who would support either option were 23.44 percent.

In a follow-up question, the attendees were also asked if the district goes with a site option they are not in favor of, if they would still support the levy. A total of 73.53 percent said it would not change their support.

In the case the board does decide to build the facilities on a new site, deliberation has been made as to whether or not the district could feasibly maintain the 1995/1998 gymnasium, cafeteria and kitchen for use as a community center.

Those in attendance at the community meeting were asked if they would support an additional 1-2 mill levy in two to three years to maintain and operate the building. A total of 49.28 percent said they would support such a levy, with 34.78 percent indicating they feel that portion of the building should be torn down.

Thompson said the Garmann-Miller representative commended the local community for its turnout and said it was one of the firm’s better responses for its community meetings.

Board member Doug Desgrange said he appreciated the support received, but wanted to see input from more community members. He said the same people are involved each time from the community and wanted to see more parents involved in the process as the board needs to make a decision on a short time line.

“It’s a big decision and it’s a big deal,” he said. “This needs to be done. We need help and it’s not coming.”

Board member Peter Leatherman added he wants to hear more from parents with children in the district’s elementary school as the transition will affect them for years to come.

The meeting also saw public participation, with community members speaking on their support of which site to choose for the project.

Daniel Chambers, who resides in Swanton within the school district, presented the board with a “Tiger Plan,” which combined elements from the proposed “Orange Plan” and “Black Plan.” Chambers said many members of his family attended the school district and the current school campus is a source of community pride.

While he agreed the school facilities need to be replaced and said he understood the current facilities are too expensive to repair, he feels the new facility should remain at the current location. He said the current location is strong and very visible in the Village of Liberty Center and its proximity to the public library was important for the students.

Chambers said he was concerned there may be annexation issues if the facility was constructed outside of the village limits. In this instance, the Village of Liberty Center would then lose tax dollars.

He also spoke on the concern of the slope of the current land owned by the district not being able to accommodate certain elements of the project. He provided the board with topographic maps of the site and a theoretical site near the district’s spring sports complex and said the slope of the new site is steeper. In regard to accessibility concerns for safety vehicles, Chambers said possible easements on the current site would allow for another access point.

Dr. Anna McMaster, co-chair for the district’s levy committee, said she would support the levy no matter what decision was made on the site. She said the new facilities would address issues with access and safety. However, through talking to community members, the majority of the input received indicates more people favor a new site for the facilities. McMaster presented the information for the consideration of the board members.

While four out of the five board members currently support a new site for the facilities based on a roll call Monday, no official decision has been made on the matter. Desgrange still favors the current site for the project and more quotes and information will be sought by Treasurer Carla Rice to be presented at a special meeting for the discussion of the project site.

Thompson said the district is still seeking public input on the project and community members are encouraged to visit the district’s web site or contact the superintendent’s office at 419-533-5011.

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