Archive for Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Letters to the editor: Community must work together in preparing for next bond issue; LAWS applauded for pet spay/neuter coupons

April 12, 2011

Community must work together in preparing for next bond issue

To the editor:

I would like to thank the residents who took the time to vote on April 5. As a member of the board of education I would like to express my pride in this community for being involved in the process.

Many voters expressed the need to keep our taxes low. I agree wholeheartedly that our low tax levy is an asset, not a blank check. In a three-county area we have the lowest mill levy rate; we attained this distinction by spending wisely. Another voter concern was the bond passed in 2004 and speculation about what was or was not promised. We will allay these concerns in the next bond.

We have established that we require more room at the elementary school and we have other pressing needs. We should have prioritized our needs with a better analysis and provided more than one solution. Our attempt to resolve all these issues was too ambitious. What the board owes voters is a detailed, prioritized plan for the near future.

Our community cares for our children, cares about our citizens and has the expertise to meet the needs of both. There was wisdom in the bond vote. Let us put into practice that wisdom and meet the needs of our children while simultaneously being good stewards of our tax dollars. We can do both and still have a mill levy lower than our neighbors’. We just have to work creatively and work together to solve our problems.

Dan Hopkins,

Tonganoxie school board member

LAWS applauded for pet spay/neuter coupons

To the editor:

Kudos to LAWS for publishing its free pet spay/neuter coupons in The Mirror and the Basehor Sentinel, as well as in Leavenworth and Lansing. This provides another option for those throughout the county who might otherwise leave their pets intact, allowing them to produce unplanned, unwanted litters.

Sterilization of pets not only keeps them from breeding; it decreases nuisance behaviors such as fighting, spraying and roaming, and prevents certain cancers. It simply makes pets better pets.

Leavenworth County Humane Society continues monthly low-cost spay/neuter transports rotating through the cities in Leavenworth County (the May transport is from Tonganoxie). This program allows owners to bring their pets to a convenient near-home location — no driving to Merriam to drop off and pick up your pet. Transportation to the clinic, an overnight stay, and transportation back to the collection point is provided. LCHS transport includes all standard vaccinations for cats and dogs (rabies, FVRCP, DA2PPV), microchip for pets, and parasite treatment if needed. For more information on the LCHS low-cost spay/neuter transports, e-mail or visit spayneuter-transport.

Those without Internet access may call (913) 728-2881 and leave a message.

Crystal Swann Blackdeer,

Leavenworth County Humane Society director


only1 4 years, 6 months ago

I disagree that it was too ambitious. Taking advantage of state aid is not too ambitious, it's intelligent. Proposing and possibly passing another bond issue that may not address as many needs as this one, but yet cost the same (because of no state aid and higher cost of construction) is perplexing to me. I don't get it. The "no" votes were heard, but I I'm not sure some of them were really thinking this through. Many use the excuse "The economy is bad", and hey, things are tight at my house too, but I can find a way to muster up a few extra bucks a month because it makes sense. If you need new shoes, do you take advantage of a 25% off sale and pay $75 or wait a month when they go back up to $100? Oh, I forgot, when it goes back up to $100, you only get one shoe. ??????


Old_Vet 4 years, 6 months ago

It was too ambitious. Sometimes my wife would purchase an item at the grocery store for the sole reason she had a coupon and the item was on sale. She'd go on about having saved two dollars on a five dollar item. Problem is we didn't need the item. So we'd end up negative three dollars, but you could never convince her that she hadn't saved two dollars.

I have supported the bond, but now there is an opportunity to relook the plan. I think Mr. Hopkins is merely stating the obvious. The voters said no to 26.9 million, will they say yes to 20 million that covers our "priorities".


only1 4 years, 6 months ago

So overcrowding and student safety aren't priorities. On top of that, we shouldn't take advantage of financial help for other items that may not be priorities, but will be necessary in the near future? That's just stupid business sense. Would you be mad at your wife for buying shampoo that was 25% off, but you didn't need it right now? You know you will in 2 months, so why not take advantage of the discount?


Old_Vet 4 years, 6 months ago

Only1, If the bond is resubmitted ten times in its current form it won't get passed. I voted yes even though I thought it was "too ambitious" and I stated up front weeks ago (25 Aug) that I had reservations about the bond. We need a new elementary school, that is in my humble opinion our priority. The high school is second. Next is the administrative offices of the district. Lastly I believe the money for the old elementary school should not be spent, build the new school and give the old school to the City. The city needs a new city hall and police station. City administrator Mr. Yanez is on record in this paper as saying the city facilities are inadequate, moldy, they don't have storage space, etc. The school district administrative offices could relocate to the old school and have a co-use agreement.

I supported the last bond, but the next bond will be different if for no other reason than state money has changed. But it did not go away as predicted. I believe it is at 15% now. If we open another elementary school without closing down the old one we'll have more custodians, cooks, and principles. That will be the hidden cost. If we can keep the support/maintenance costs down that will show good business sense in the long run. Efficiency saves money, buying things we don't need to get a few extra state dollars only ends up costing more in the end.

In conclusion, change the plan, build one large elementary school, work with the city, save the city money, which saves the tax payer money, and we recycle the used building.


hricane23 4 years, 6 months ago


It's like you're in my brain! I apologize for all the other stuff that's there, too.

What I find interesting, and frustrating, is this perception that the community "voiced its opinion". Yes, the "No"s won the vote, but let's consider things a little more.

683 people voted "Yes". While not necessarily agreeing on every issue, the "Yes" voters ALL agreed that the needs/ benefits outweighed the costs/ problems, and that education is important to the community.

1,121 people voted "No". But that's where many of their similarities ended. Some people voted "No" because they don't want to pay anymore taxes. Some voted "No" because they don't have children in the District, and see no benefit. Some voted "No" because they went to school in trailers, and they turned out fine. Some voted "No" because they don't believe that facilities have any impact on education. Some voted "No" because they don't believe in the existing public education system. Some voted "No" because they don't believe the high school needs a connecting addition. Some voted "No" because they don't think the Administration needs a new space. Some voted "No" because many of our neighbors are having trouble with their family budgets. Some voted "No" because they thought the ballot wording was too vague. Some voted "No" because of a grudge on the School Board or the District. Some voted "No" because of traffic or safety concerns. And on and on...

When I've "debated" on these forums with people on the "opposition", one thing has been consistent. A great many of "No" voters voted that way because of ONE issue they had. The only "consensus" among "No" voters was that they would vote "No"!

Certainly, another plan may get some more "Yes" votes. Taking out the high school piece, for example, will appease some. More specific language on the ballot will appease at least one person. Waiting 5 years for the economy to turn around makes sense to some people. And fortunately, paying the same (or more) for less will not likely take away a "Yes" vote.

A 220 vote swing to "Yes"s would have passed the bond. Will taking out the high school piece change 220 minds? Will a slightly stronger economy in 12 months add any votes? Well, color me skeptical.

So, what's frustrating to me is that the "majority" of the 1,800 voters agreed. But we still lost.


only1 4 years, 6 months ago

Very good post. I'm convinced that some will never change their "closed" minds though, so it's our job to keep trying to reach the people that didn't vote and hopefully convince them that this community needs a change in culture. It will happen naturally over time as more progressive minded people move to town, but I don't think it's fair to this generation of kids to have to wait on that to happen.


gotongie 4 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Hopkins, aka "Old Vet", I am glad you supported the bond. However, why are you now throwing the committee under the bus? This letter made me very uncomfortable. A lot of people, including myself, worked very hard for this bond election. Consultants, the board, the superintendent, committee members, and several community volunteers put a lot of time and effort trying to getting this passed. You voted yes for the plan? And then apologize for it? It's almost hurtful to read your letter.
On a side note, building one enormous elementary school is a horrible idea. Building a new school with the possibility of housing 1000 kids is just crazy talk. Isn't that what we are trying to get away from now? And by the way, aren't staff and janitors hired based on the number of students and size of the building? So, no, two buildings will not be less efficient. Actually, the most efficient thing would be to use both buildings. That was said by the consultants and the committee. Anything else would cost the taxpayer more. I learned that at a community meeting.
Regardless, I guess all of this chatter is becoming a waste of time. As per usual, only about five people in Tongie are probably reading this and actually care. Thank you for your time.


Old_Vet 4 years, 5 months ago

Gotongie, I know Mr. Hopkins from the VFW, I am a little older (25 years). From what I read and heard the plan was not a great plan. The 62% of the electorate thought it a bad plan. I am not familiar with the work of the committee but "trust" that it was legitimate. Committees are dangerous and easily swayed.

I recall this quote: "A committee is a group of the unwilling chosen from the unfit, to do the unnecessary." ~Author Unknown

Now if you think attempting to cram this bond down the electorate's throat again is a good plan, then it will probably lose 72 to 28 percent next time. I've been in this community for over 35 years and seen several bonds not pass. This one was by far the least popular in my memory. My wife passed several years ago, she knew Mildred McMillon and Mildred has been involved in the board some way or another for decades. I don't think Mildred much liked this bond. I didn't hear or see her stumping for it like she has done for past bonds.

Your comment about 2 buildings being more efficient than one? OK, that doesn't make sense to me. Janitors maintain buildings, not students. You are right in that this is probably a waste of time.


gotongie 4 years, 5 months ago

Got you fired up!
I don't think this should be brought up again any time soon. I do think it would fail. You are right. As far as Mildred "stumping", I didn't see any of the board members taking that active of a roll in this election, including Mr. Hopkins. Perhaps they shouldn't have approved it to begin with, instead of backpedaling once it failed.
I think this community just needs some time to heal, and then it will be ready to address what is needed. I don't think it's helpful to insult committee members in the process, however. Insinuating that they are mindless followers is not productive.


only1 4 years, 5 months ago

I would argue that about 50% of the no voters were "followers" just voting based on what they "heard". I have talked to many people and many no voters straight up didn't have the facts. The mistruths were ridiculous. Don't blame committees or yes voters who can think on their own.


hricane23 4 years, 5 months ago

Kurt Vonnegut once said "We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is." So, play nice gotongie and Old_Vet!

Old_Vet, even though you sound as though your support has wavered, I know enough to know that you would look at a new plan as thoroughly as this failed one, and would try to find ways to support it, instead of the other way around. And I'm sorry to hear about Mrs. Old_Vet. I'm sure she was a heckuva woman to put up with you!

gotongie, your passion is important to the overall cause of bettering this community and our children's futures. I agree that the plan presented made 100% sense, and I don't think anybody should apologize for what was brought forth. And I'm not ready to make any concessions just yet, either.

Old_Vet, back to you... As I understand it, the state aid amount is still going through legislation. The optimistic viewpoint is that it will go down to 15%. The skeptical viewpoint is that it will go away completely. Considering what the State Gubment has done lately, I find it hard to be optimistic. But we shall see what happens.

As for the suggestion of one elementary building vs. two, I originally agreed that one building seemed like it made more sense. And while I'm hardly an expert on architecture or construction, the proposal of maintaining two buildings makes more sense to me than it first did. To present more specific stats about it, I defer to the Honorable John_Morgan...


hricane23 4 years, 5 months ago


Since I've been left out in the cold, I'll push forward myself!

Reasons for two buildings vs one:

The new school was planned for 800 students, and would likely open with approx. 560, or 70%. There will still be just under 300 kids in kindergarten and 1st. To build a school large enough to include them, and still open at 70%, you'd need to build a 1,200 student building. That's 1/3rd the size of the original plan. But it doesn't just take adding that many more classrooms. It takes increasing the "assembly hall" and the lunch room. Do you need another music room, or a bigger library? A whole bunch of other considerations. And while one could reasonably assume this bigger building would cost 1/3rd more, I don't believe cost was really the deciding factor.

As I understand it, "logistical" issues with running a school that large played a big factor in deciding on the 2 school model. One issue with today's school is that kindergartners begin lunch at around 10:30. With that many kids, that wouldn't change. Additionally, "all school" assemblies are impossible with the current setup, and the new meeting/ auditorium would have to be expanded in the proposal. One of the "No" voters issues was traffic. Think about the traffic if we threw another 300 students into the mix.

What about heating/ cooling this larger space? Another issue from the "No"s was that the new school would only have a "silver" rating. Well, first, a silver rating is, I believe, the highest efficiency rating put into a new school, and only a couple in the state have that distinction. So, a silver rating isn't bad. But what would happen if we had a 33% bigger building? Would we lose energy efficiency?

Finally, the "No" voters claimed that Special Education was not addressed in the failed bond plans. Special Education services are provided by the LV County Spec Ed Co-op. The District can provide the Co-op with space, but can't commit to the services and programs. Right now, every Monday through Thursday, we bus our Early Childhood Spec Ed students 12+ miles to Linwood and then 12+ miles back home. There isn't room in the current setup. In 2008, Lansing built a new elementary school, and consolidated two old schools into the new one. They vacated the old buildings, and the LV Cty Spec Ed Co-op moved in to one of them. By doing so, the Co-op was able to increase the services they provide. One commenter on one of the first stories published on the bond discussed how they were against it because the District doesn't provide the Special Ed services needed, and they had to go to Lansing to get their child's needs filled. Ironically, it was because of Lansing's successful bond that built their new school that that child's needs were met.


John_Morgan 4 years, 5 months ago

Hricane23, I didn’t mean to leave you out in the cold. I’m not a big fan of on-line comment boards, and hesitated to reply. Bottom line, folks from both sides of the issue will need to become involved in a revised plan, and both sides need to be open to each side’s ideas and work together. In the end, we all want the same thing – the best for our kids.

The reality is there is no “silver bullet” that will drastically reduce the cost of building a new elementary school. The failed plan called for a 105,000 to 115,000 square foot intermediate school for 800 students costing about $16.5M, not including furnishings, fees and permits, and contingencies. To create a facility that would accommodate 1,100 to 1,200 students, a massive facility approaching 150,000 square feet would be needed. Based on the average square foot construction costs of the original bond issue, this hypothetical facility would cost about $19.6M to construct, and would also not include furnishings, fees and permits, nor contingencies of over $3.0M. That’s $22.6M before any state aid. Best case, the 25% state aid is still available, and the taxpayers are asked to pay for about $17M. The failed bond’s amount was $26.9M before state aid, and $20.2M after the state aid of 25%. The point, $20.2M would cost the owner of a $150K home about $13 per month. A new, single elementary school housing all students through 5th grade will likely cost about 15% less - $11 per month.

Will we solve this on The Mirror’s comment boards? Likely not, but everyone needs to come to the table realizing new schools will cost, no single plan will please every person, and the longer we adults continue to disagree, the longer our kids will attend classes in sub-par facilities.


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