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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo School Survey May Go Out In November

Issue Date: October 18, 2017

If Peshtigo School Board gives its approval at a 6 p.m. meeting on Monday, Oct. 23, a survey will be going out in November to determine public support for various options to either build a new middle school/high school or renovate the old one. If survey results show sufficient public support for any of the options, there could be a funding referendum at the April elections.

For several years Peshtigo School District authorities have been attempting to get public approval of plans to either build an entirely new middle school/high school or remodel the old one to correct a number of structural and mechanical deficiencies and prepare it to meet today's educational needs.

Referendums for a new school failed in fall of 2015 and again in spring of 2016. Subsequently a Citizens Committee was formed to look at the options with new eyes.

Working with that committee, the school district hired two new construction and design firms, Miron of Neenah and Sommerville Associates of Green Bay, determine facilities needs and prepare preliminary plans and estimates with options for either new construction or remodeling. On advice of the consultants, in July, they hired School Perceptions, Slinger-based survey firm, to prepare a survey aimed at gathering information to determine just what Peshtigo District residents want from their school and what they will financially support.

At a joint meeting of the Citizens Committee and school board on Monday, Oct. 16, Bill Foster of School Perceptions, who has been working with a local committee to devise the survey, gave the committee copies of the proposed survey along with a detailed presentation.

School District Administrator Kim Eparvier and several school board members were also present, including Board President Gary Larsen. Miron representatives Megan Prestebak and Craig Sachs and Sommerville representative Matt Honold actively participated in the discussions.

After a few suggested changes the Citizens Committee agreed the survey questionnaire packet should go to the school board for probable approval at the Oct. 23 meeting.

Foster said if the board approves the survey packets will be printed the following day, and be promptly mailed to all residences in the district, hopefully by Monday, Nov. 6.

Sometime in December, after results are tabulated, a joint meeting of the school board and the citizens committee would be held.

Survey results will be posted for public viewing on the school's website.

If public response indicates that one of the options would be successful at the polls a community visioning session will be scheduled to get an idea of what kind of feel the people want in their school, tentatively on Saturday, Feb. 10. After that, actual project design work would get underway. Plans are to have floor plans finished before the referendum.

If there is to be a referendum in April the board needs to adopt the enabling resolution, with the dollar amount, by mid-January.

Foster said his company has worked fast since being hired in July. He explained the plan is to ask the community what it wants, and settle the strategic question of whether they want to continue investing in the existing building or build a new one. If they want to invest in the existing building, the question would be how much.

According to survey questions, cost of an entirely new building will be approximately $34 million, while completing all phases of a renovation would cost an estimated $30.9 million. However, the remodeling option could be done in phases, in part or complete. The $34 million option would add approximately $231 per year for 20 years to the taxes on a property valued at $100,000, while the $30.9 million would add $203 per year. Lower cost options are $25 million at $151 per year, and $20 million at $106 per year. Respondents will be asked which amount they would support in a referendum, if any. Respondents will also be asked if they would support increasing the referendum by $1 million to support a four-court gym, or an additional $5 million to build a 500-seat auditorium. Each added $1 million adds about $45 a year to the taxes on a $100,000 property.

"Price matters," Foster declared. He said if the survey does not show sufficient support for any of the options a referendum will not be successful, he said. He said about 70 percent of those who respond to the survey will be asking what it will cost them, and only about 30 percent "really care about what you do with the money."

Survey respondents will be asked to prioritize various options, with estimated costs given for each.

There had been proposals to renovate the old school and build a free standing music and athletic facility behind the elementary school, but according to the survey comments this option was deemed too expensive. No cost estimates were given for this option.

Foster said a tremendous investment will be needed to fix up the existing school, and the survey asks if respondents would support a referendum to renovate the building if the projects included were acceptable to them.

Several of the comments made by committee members were aimed at assuring the public that the football field will remain where it is, and that need for construction or renovation is not driven by open enrollment needs.

He explained precautions they use to assure that there is only one response per individual. Responses can be sent on-line, but each response includes a one-use code number. Every district resident over the age of 18 is entitled to one response, including those who are away at school.

The survey packets contain a rough draft of a site plan concept for possible construction of a new school behind the existing elementary school, as well as a possible future auditorium.

Intended is an informational vehicle as well as a means of determining community support, the survey packet gives some pros and cons of each of the options, asks for demographic information on respondents, and asks some general questions about perception of how well the District is doing in general.

School staff members are being asked to take the survey, regardless of whether or not they are District residents because their insight is important, Foster said.

Larsen commented the longer they wait, the higher the price gets. He said when they tried to get approval for a new school in 2007 the estimated price was $17 million. Now it is twice that.


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