Editor's note: This is the first part of a week-long series about the various aspects of efforts by Marshall Public School District officials to present facility plans and get feedback from the public. A series of public meetings began last week and continues this week.
In the discussion part of three public meetings hosted by the Marshall school district last week, one question district officials posed to citizens was which site to choose.
The school board is planning to place a bond issue on the ballot in April, and after four failed issues in the past decade, school officials are increasing their efforts to find out precisely what voters want for the future of school facilities.
In past elections, site selection has been a much-criticized aspect of district plans. For the 2000, 2001 and 2003 building plans, a site on the northwest corner of Marshall was selected.
Taking a cue from failures at the polls, the school board selected a site on the south side of town for the plan prior to the November 2009 election.
The Banks property, however, was criticized by some as being too close to the affluent residential area near Stone Hedge Golf Club, for being too far from other residential areas for students to walk to school and for being on a relatively high-traffic street.
Following the November election, the board opted to re-open the site selection question and invited property owners to submit new proposals. Of the five submitted, three were selected as finalists, and the board has been seeking public input about which one voters would prefer as a site for the new elementary school, if the bond issue passes.
|Three public meetings at Marshall elementary schools are scheduled for this week. Each meeting will include a tour of the host facility and an opportunity to ask questions of school officials:
--Northwest Elementary School, 411 N. Benton Ave.: Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m.
The choices include the 26-acre Banks property on the east side of South Odell Avenue just south of the intersection with Drake Road, a 20-acre parcel of the Gaba property just north of "the Split" where South Odell Avenue and U.S. Highway 65 meet and a 70-acre parcel of land owned by the Gieringer family at the intersection east of Lincoln Avenue and south of Watermill Road.
Pros and cons
At the school board meeting Tuesday, Jan. 5, representatives of property owners who submitted proposals were invited to address the board.
Don Garst, who represents the owner of the Gaba property, said the advantages of the parcel include high visibility and accessibility. It is, he said, the first place people see as they approach Marshall from the south on U.S. 65.
The parcel could have access from both South Odell Avenue and U.S. 65, he said, possibily relieving traffic congestion concerns.
Another nearly 20-acre parcel on the south side of the site could be made available for an additional school, he said.
The downside of the property is the likelihood that it would need more dirt work than the other sites, according to school officials, and it is situated near the flight path of aircraft using Marshall's airport.
It is also the most expensive parcel per acre at $17,500, with a total cost of $350,000.
The Banks property was again selected as an option, and although no representative of the property owner was present, the board is familiar with the characteristics of the site, having studied it and selected it during the fall bond issue planning process.
The price this time is slightly higher than in the fall at $10,000 per acre. The total price would be about $260,000.
Like the Gaba property, the site is considered by school officials to be accessible and visible. Although some dirt work is necessary, there is plenty of room for the proposed school.
However, some critics of the site last fall argued that traffic congestion on South Odell Avenue would be a problem at drop-off and pick-up times.
And the site would not support additional school buildings. A nearby property owner has informally assured the district that adjacent property might be made available in the future.
The district asked the architects to add a second entrance road as part of the plan, but in an effort to reduce the total cost of the project, the second entrance has been eliminated from the current plan.
Ken Gieringer, representing the Gieringer family, told the board there are numerous possibilities for dividing the available 130 acres of land, but he presented eight options for the board to consider.
Of those, the board selected a 70-acre tract. The asking price is $9,285.71 per acre, for a total of about $650,000.
Board members noted that the site is accessible, even on foot, but is not in a high-traffic area.
Each site has access to utilities. The exception is natural gas, which isn't connected to the Gieringer property, but Ken Gieringer said at the board meeting that he believes there is gas service to the residential areas nearby, so access should not be a major problem.
Feedback so far
The subject of site selection has played a minor role so far in discussions at the public meetings, but at the meeting Saturday, Jan. 16, at Benton Elementary School, the subject did get some attention.
Wayne Crawford, co-chairman of Citizens for the School Bond Committee, noted features of all three sites, including the fact that the Gieringer parcel is large enough to accommodate the district's long-range facility plans, which call for adding a second new elementary school in eight to 10 years, followed by replacement of Bueker Middle School as soon as possible after that.
"The 70-acre plot, although more than you need for this school, would give you option to build other schools there," he said.
The few comments from citizens at the meetings have tended to focus on that possibility.
"I remember when the high school was built. We bought that tract of land and now everyone says 'Why didn't we buy more land?'" said Laura Thiel. "We've got to keep building. I think we're going to have to buy land in large tracts."
Marshall school board narrows list of potential school sites, hears cost estimates on renovating existing schools: