By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL email@example.com
---- — GOSHEN — It was an outcome worthy of a high-five.
And that is just what Goshen Community Schools Superintendent Diane Woodworth and GCS board president Jane Troup did after the final numbers were tallied Tuesday.
After months of research and community debate, voters within the Goshen Community School Corp. boundaries Tuesday approved a $17.15 million construction project that school officials say will provide “for quality programs for the next 20 years.”
Polls for the special referendum closed at 6 p.m. at 12 locations representing 21 precincts in Elkhart Township. The school construction project was the only question on Tuesday’s ballot. It read:
“Shall Goshen Community Schools issue bonds or enter into a lease to finance the renovation of and construction of improvements to Goshen Middle School and Goshen High School, which includes site improvements, which is estimated to cost not more than $17,150,000 and is estimated to increase the property tax rate for debt service by a maximum of $.1098 per $100 of assessed valuation over the 20-year life of the bonds?”
The measure passed by a vote of 2,099 to 1,341.
Goshen’s was only one of four referendums around the state that passed Tuesday night. A $28M renovation project was defeated in Mishawaka 2,808 votes to 1,321 votes. A referendum on the transportation program in Muncie failed as did a budget shortfall referendum in Michigan City.
“I was optimistically hopeful and now the work really begins,” Woodworth said minutes after the final vote count was tallied. “The teachers will be thrilled. I want to thank the community for their vote of affirmation for the students and teachers. I want to thank the PAC (Say Yes Goshen Political Action Committee) group, they were just fantastic. With the new referendum laws, the PAC had to do the promoting. Steve Norton did a great job.”
Troup added, “We (school board members) couldn’t go out to campaign and beat the bushes. The PAC group made an impact. They got out there and got the vote.”
“It’s a good day,” Troup said, smiling while she stood in the county administration building election night. “We got it.”
During the evening as the inspectors of the 21 precincts brought in their ballots to be counted at the administration building, Woodworth and Troup were anxiously waiting to hear the numbers.
Elkhart Precinct 19 at Greencroft Senior Center, was the first precinct to report its numbers, 268 yes to 63 no.
Troup clapped her hands and Woodworth smiled at hearing the initial results.
After two more precinct results were added, Woodworth was asked what was going through her mind.
“I’m just so curious and hoping,” she said.
After 12 of the precincts had reported results and the total stood at 1,386 yes to 834 no, Woodworth smiled.
“I’m feeling better but it’s not over yet,” the superintendent said.
And Troup pointed to the “no” column on the paper she held in her hand as she added the results being called out by Wayne Kramer, Republican election board member.
“No matter what we do, this group is not going to like what we are going to do,” Troup said of those who voted “no.”
The project, which Woodworth expects to break ground on Aug. 4, 2014 and be completed by December 2015, will replace the corporation’s two existing swimming pools with a new competition pool. It will also re-purpose those pool spaces at the high school and middle school into classrooms, more cafeteria space and more physical education and music program space. Some small additions to both buildings are included in the project, which breaks down as such:
• At Goshen High School, there will be an addition for band/orchestra support spaces at $1.710 million and renovations will include $630,000 for remodeling of the music department; $270,000 to convert the pool to physical education/classroom areas; $510,000 to repair the brick-front of GHS; and $500,000 to replace the Phend Field baseball diamond, which is expected to be taken by the U.S. 33 relocation project.
• At Goshen Middle School there will be $540,000 for a physical education/fitness room and renovations, including $490,000 to remodel the pool and lockers areas for a band room; $130,000 to remodel the orchestra area for special education classrooms; and the addition and remodeling of the kitchen and cafe for $1.1 million.
• At either the high school or middle school location, a new competition swimming pool facility will be built at a cost of $10 million.
The site for the new pool has yet to be determined. School officials decided not to spend money on design or site studies until completion of the referendum.
“Once the architects and contractors look at both sites, they will make recommendations and give us cost estimates for each site,” Troup said last month. “This will also determine whether it will be a freestanding building or attached (to one of the schools).”
Woodworth estimates the new pool will save the corporation $125,000 annually on maintenance costs. The current pool at Goshen High School was completed in 1961 and the pool at the middle school was built in 1991.
Now that the referendum has been approved, Woodworth said the school board will appoint a technical review committee during its meeting Monday and the design-build work will begin.
After that committee has been formed, an architect and contractor team will be selected from their proposals and drawings that have been submitted, she added.