School board readies building bond plan, hears busing needs
November 28, 2019
The Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors met Nov.19 for updates on several matters and to adopt a school bond resolution for a coming ballot.
Calvin Grasseth, who is in charge of transportation at the school district, spoke to the board about a proposal to replace the district’s aging bus fleet.
“The buses have a depreciation schedule, and the state bid, what we pay for buses, is paid back 100 percent in 13 years. That’s almost unheard of in a vehicle,” Grasseth said. “The goal is to update our bus fleet with a fairly smaller investment to start with to get us on the depreciation schedule.”
The district needs 10 buses to operate: two trip buses, two special needs buses, and six route buses, according to Grasseth. Two buses currently in the district’s fleet need to be retired.
Administrators hope to follow a new 12 year plan, Grasseth said. With each purchase of a new bus, they will receive money through depreciation that will go towards the purchase of another bus.
Grasseth and Superintendent Brent Freeman suggested purchasing two route buses in 2020 and a lift bus in 2021 to begin the 12 year plan.
“We’ve had buses break down on the side of the road, we’ve had buses with fire, we’ve had buses with kids in rest stops, and that’s not who we are,” Freeman said. “If we do nothing, we have six buses that are at the end of their life. We have 12 buses. If we go down to six buses, that has a tremendous impact on our routes, and we don’t have any ability to transport our kids to extracurricular activities.”
“We feel that from a business perspective on the back end of the dollar side that this is exactly the right time to be making this kind of purchase,” Freeman said.
Sounds good,” Board Director Sue O’Connor said.
Freeman gave a quick update on the new commercial kitchen/fish processing center that they are calling the FISH Center.
The roof is on, painting was planned, and an electrician was expected to arrive soon. They were still waiting to hear if they had received a grant to purchase some equipment.
“We’re still tracking to complete it by the end of December,” Freeman.
Talk then turned to the remodel. According to Freeman, the district has hired Construction Services Group with a grant they had received to do building assessments.
“We’re outdated,” Freeman said. “There are certain components of all the buildings that are really at the failing and catastrophic need of attention.”
Freeman said they had also worked with a bond attorney from Piper Jaffray to go over possible figures for a remodel or a new build.
They believe it will cost $35.4 million for a complete remodel.
“That is a bare bones number,” Freeman said. “A new school would probably double that.”
The district is expected to receive $6.7 million in assistance from the state for a remodel.
The board adopted a resolution proposing a school bond to improve safety, educational opportunities, and an aging infrastructure, asking for the difference, no more than $28,750,000 of general obligation bonds maturing within 22 years, levying annual excess property taxes to repay the bonds.
There will be a special election on February 11, 2020, which will give voters an opportunity to approve or reject the bond.