New middle school bond set: Snoqualmie Valley school board lowers total cost, number of turf fields

Snoqualmie Valley School District's plan to build a new middle school, install new playfields and make district-wide building fixes is now in the hands of the voters.

The district's board of directors finalized the scope of a February construction bond that would put a new middle school on Snoqualmie Ridge, freeing up space at the current Snoqualmie Middle School for a freshman campus.

In a two-hour discussion Thursday, Oct. 21, that weighed politics with cost and potential savings, board members backed away from an earlier $59 million estimate to bring the bond in at $56.2 million, eliminating plans to replace or add nine synthetic playfields, three at each middle school. Board members decided that one turf field would be sufficient at each school, at Finance Director Ryan Stokes' insistence that turf fields save the district greater operational costs in the long run. Turf fields cost more to install, but cost seven times less annually to maintain, Stokes said.

Much of their discussion followed resident concerns over added cost.

"The top priority needs to be getting the new middle school built," parent Jim Reitz publicly cautioned the board. "Almost anything you add, especially in this economy, is going to make a greater risk of failure to pass a bond. I want to remind you of how difficult it is to pass a bond."

Board member Scott Hodgins urged the board to eliminate all synthetic fields and make grass fields the baseline. Turf fields could be considered if bids come in low.

"To me, it's a decision we can make later," Hodgins said.

Other board members, such as Marci Busby, touted the safety and community benefits of turf, arguing for at least one new field at each middle school, Valley-wide.

"I'd rather see them on a safe field that's going to last longer," Busby said.

Board member Dan Popp urged the board to be frank with residents on the advantages of turf.

"Are people going to get hung up on one field? That's a sad statement, in that case," he said.

"Turf is not a luxury item. It's a savings," added board member Craig Husa. "To me, it's a no-brainer."

"I am concerned about its impact on the success of the bond," Hodgins said. "Having said that, it's very important for this board to be collective in our decision."

Hodgins agreed to support his colleagues, voting with them in the final resolution.

"This bond is not about synthetic fields," Husa said. "It's about 9-12 and 6-12 (education)."

Husa pointed to more than two years of study and planning that have gone into the new middle school and freshman campus proposal and programming.

"We're very concerned about the size of the bond," he said. "I and others feel that education of our students is a multifaceted experience. Physical education is a part of that."

On the bond

The February 2011 bond would put $49 million toward a replacement middle school.

It also pays for projects meant to improve safety and preserve school facilities throughout the district, as well as providing upgrades to the Mount Si High campus to enable program enhancements defined in the High School Educational Program Study.

Projects to protect facilities and lower repair costs include boilers at Fall City and North Bend elementaries, a new roof on Two Rivers School, floor systems at Mount Si and Opstad, all-weather turf for Chief Kanim and Twin Falls, replacement of wooden ramps, Chief Kanim Middle School sidewalk repairs, exterior painting of schools, and replacement of transportation fuel pumps.

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