USD 464 ‘proactive’ in bond planning
Lessons learned in Tonganoxie USD 464’s last successful bond issue are being applied as the district starts the design phase for a bond referendum expected to be put before voters in five months.
USD 464 Superintendent Kyle Hayden said the district did not do a thorough job of identifying infrastructure needs before asking voters in November 2004 to approve the $23.4 million bond issue that built the new middle school.
“In the previous bond issue, some details and cooperation did not occur until after bond issue was passed,” Hayden said. “That’s really too late.
“We want to be proactive. If you don’t do that and have discussions upfront, you could have a financial shortfall that doesn’t leave enough money to get done what you need to do.”
The most glaring example from 2004 was the need for a new water tower, which was completed in late 2006. The district eventually agreed to pay $150,000 of the $542,000 water tower’s cost.
The process to assure the 2004 experience wasn’t repeated has already begun. Hayden said he started meeting with Tonganoxie City Administrator Mike Yanez six months ago to discuss the repercussions of a bond issue. That cooperation would continue in the coming months and would involve Horst, Terrell and Karst — the Overland Park architect firm the board selected Oct. 25 to design the new school.
The firm’s architects and engineers have already started a series of site reviews needed to determine the exact location and design of the new elementary school to be built on the district’s 80-acre south campus, Hayden said. That process will also identify infrastructure needs, he said.
Traffic would probably be the big concern, because water, sewer and electrical lines were brought to the south campus with the construction of the middle school and with the understanding more schools would be built at the site, Hayden said.
Adding 600 students to the south campus would require street improvements, Hayden said, and he identified the same two candidates from street improvements as Tonganoxie City Council members pegged in its recent discussion of a successful bond issue’s repercussions: the extension of 14th Street to U.S. Highway 24-40 and extension of East Street from Washington Street to 14th Street.
Those street improvements have been a topic of his conversations with Yanez, as were their costs and responsibility, Hayden said. It is hoped the city and the district could take advantage of state and federal grants to reduce the local costs of those improvements, he said.
Hayden said district officials would meet with the design team this week to discuss a schedule for the architects to complete a preliminary plan of the new school. The goal is that the plan be finished in a bit more than two months, he said. The process would involve discussions with the city and its engineers to identify infrastructure needs and costs, he said.
“The hope is to get a preliminary plan with hard numbers on costs and pretty solid plan as far as what the facility looks like by mid-January,” he said. “Before we can put this out as a bond resolution, we want to make sure we have solid figures and know who is paying for what. The next couple of months are critical.”
That timeframe would give the community two months to become acquainted with the new school plan and upgrades planned at the high school and current elementary before an April 2011 bond referendum and allow the district and the city for further discussions of infrastructure needs.
Meanwhile, the Tonganoxie City Council has already started talking about what a successful bond issue would mean for the city with an expressed interest in avoiding a repeat of the 2004 experience.
Council members have said they would like a joint meeting with the board about the bond, but it was agreed the city first needed an understanding of what would be required. To that end, Yanez sent a letter Oct. 18 to Hayden listing the infrastructure concerns the city would like the district engineers and architects to consider when designing the new school. On the city’s list were:
• Traffic requirements and concerns for Washington and Pleasant streets, possible new roadways for East and 14th streets and a reminder that all road upgrades meet city width, curb and gutter, stormwater and lighting standards. Answers to the traffic questions would probably require a traffic study, the letter states.
• Peak demand water consumption and fire protection needs for the new school so that it can be met without affecting surrounding neighborhoods.
• Sewer capacity demands.
• Stormwater drainage planning.
• Conformity of the school’s plan and future streets with the city’s recently adopted master plans for pedestrian and bicycle pathways.
Yanez told the council at its Oct. 25 meeting that a joint meeting with the USD 464 board should be scheduled when the architect developed a plan.
For his part, Hayden said the district understood the need for cooperation on the development of a site that would spur further expansion in Tonganoxie.
“This is an important project not only for students and their families but also the economic development of Tonganoxie,” he said. “There’s a vested interest to see this goes well, and we end up with a product we both feel good about.”