By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer
Just more than 25 percent of USD 333 voters went to the polls Tuesday, and approved a $5.5 million bond issue for the construction of a FEMA-approved storm shelter and replacement of the HVAC system at Concordia Elementary School.
The question on the ballot asked voters if the district should issue general obligation bonds not to exceed $5.5 million to construct, equip and furnish a FEMA storm shelter, replace the HVAC system at CES, as well as implement energy conservation measures throughout the district.
Of the 4,582 registered USD 333 voters, 1,159 cast ballots Tuesday. The measure passed with 64.5 percent support–748 voting yes, while 411 voted no.
The $5.5 million bond issue for 20 years will raise the district's mill levy from 1.97 to 3.97 mills. Because the bond issue passed, the district will now be eligible for 40 percent state aid to assist in the project.
USD 333 board chairman Rick Limon thanked all the people who turned out to vote yesterday. He said the board was cautiously optimistic about the bond measure being approved, and he is "thrilled with the vote."
"We kind of drug our feet a little because we wanted to stay away from some of the other projects that were going on (in the community)," Limon said Tuesday night after the results were announced. "But, we felt with some of the things going on in Topeka, we didn't know if this (state aid) would be available next year or the year after. Even though times are a little tight around, we felt this was the time to push it forward and go for it."
Limon said the board had been discussing the project for the last five years, and felt now was the time to put it before voters.
Bev Mortimer, USD 333 superintendent, said she is overwhelmed by the support the community showed in approving the bond question.
"I'm thrilled to death," she said. "I started in the district in 1998, and I can't think of any one thing that's ever happened that can top this one because it shows the support of the community. You can't ask for anything more."
Mortimer said representatives from PBA Architects and TRANE will now begin the process of forming plans and drawings for the project. Once those are approved, the project will be let out for bids.
"It'd be great if they (the bids) came in under, and we wouldn't have to use all of the $5.5 million," she said.
The goal, she said, is to have the new HVAC system at CES up and running for the start of school next year. The FEMA shelter's timeline, she said, is longer–in the 12 to 18 month range. Mortimer said there is FEMA hazard mitigation money available for Cloud County, some of which could be used for the CES project.
Elementary school principal Krystal Breese said she is excited about the outcome of the election.
"It's amazing. . . the support the community has shown overall to the district as a whole, because it's all about the kids," she said. "It means a lot to our district."
Following are the vote totals from Tuesday's election:
Aurora, 12 yes, 24 no; First and Second Wards, Concordia, 324 yes, 134 no; Third and Fourth Wards, Concordia, 201 yes, 98 no; Townships, 87 yes, 80 no; Jamestown, 26 yes, 14 no; Advanced, 98 yes, 61 no.