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School facility future: Marshall school officials present site options, seek public input on site selection for new school

Monday, January 18, 2010

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.
--Eastwood Elementary School, 313 E. Eastwood St.: Thursday, Jan. 21, at 1 p.m.
--Bueker Middle School, 565 S. Odell Ave.: Thursday, Jan. 21, at 5:30 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."

Contact Eric Crump at marshalleditor@socket.net

Related stories:
Marshall school board narrows list of potential school sites, hears cost estimates on renovating existing schools:

The Marshall school board is asking for public input on which of three sites would be best to locate a new elementary school if the bond issue passes in April. Which do you think is best?
 Banks property on South Odell Avenue
 Gaba property between South Odell and U.S. 65
 Gieringer property at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Watermill Road
 None of the above
 Any of the above
 Not sure

Your comments about the poll question: (Optional)

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I had the attitude of Oldowl for a while about land price. Then I got to thinking about what I would do if I owned the land. Several acres in one plot is rare inside the City limits. my attitude changed when I realized what I would do if I had such a rare commodity. What would you do? would you sell cheap? Actually, I think the prices quoted are, for the most part, pretty darned cheap. I am not sure I would sell for that low a price.

-- Posted by red dog on Tue, Jan 19, 2010, at 8:33 AM

Right at 9300 dollars per acre for the Gieringer piece of land. Seems high BUT think of it as if it were subdivided. What could you sell a quarter acre lot for? Is $20,000 per quarter acre high? I don't know. Somebody out there does. I guess the point I am trying to make is this isn't farmland anymore Dorothy. After the first school is built the surrounding land should sell high, especially after a housing development is started. I think the Gieringer's have a good thing going for them. Better than $600,000 thousand for seed money to split, or look to the future and use the money to subdivide the rest of the land. A little money now or a lot of money later. Don't you wish you had that problem? The rest of my point is this land is a bargain. The Banks property is a bargain. The Gaba property is a bust because of the airport. The airport has a good safety record but, don't I recall an airplane landing in (not on) a house near the north end of the runway a few years back? It's a Murphy's law kind of thing.

-- Posted by red dog on Tue, Jan 19, 2010, at 7:58 AM

You dont think the asking prices of 17,500, with a total cost of $350,000, $9,285.71 per acre, for a total of about $650,000 and 10,000 per acre. The total price would be about $260,000.

is land owners sticking it to the school district and the people of this community?

-- Posted by OldOwlFan on Tue, Jan 19, 2010, at 7:43 AM

I definately think the Gieringer property is the way to go. Yes the initial cost of buying the land is higher, but if we buy a smaller parcel, and 10-15 years from now need to buy more neighboring land, that land will cost much more than today's price. Quite frankly, the landowners could really sock it to the school district because we really would want adjoining land. If the Gieringer property is currently being used for agriculture, the district could use the amount of acreage needed to build the one school now, and lease out the remaining acres until the next new building needs to be built. While it wouldn't bring in a lot of money, it would bring in some, and over 10-15 years, that's something better than nothing.

-- Posted by Reader101 on Tue, Jan 19, 2010, at 1:36 AM

They are stating that to quell the voters who said the Banks property wasn't feasible to walk to, and that traffic would make it tough as well. The Gieringer property would help with those two concerns.

-- Posted by mtownresident on Mon, Jan 18, 2010, at 12:53 PM

Walk to school? How many parents, in todays times would allow a student Kindergarten through second grade to walk to school by themselves? And feel safe doing it?

-- Posted by Red Witch on Mon, Jan 18, 2010, at 12:43 PM

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