Saturday, November 1, 2014

Voter's Guide

Goshen schools looking at community center, making school improvements

The Goshen School Board discussed a timetable to get a referendum on a special election ballot in order to issue $17.5 million in bonds for the Goshen Community Center and upgrades to the high school and middle school.

Posted on Dec. 11, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — Two referendums on a special election ballot next May could pave the way not only for a Goshen community center, but also for some major renovations at two Goshen schools.

The Goshen School Board took a look Monday evening at a timetable outlining the proper steps to get the school corporation's referendum on the ballot. The schools' referendum would allow Goshen Community Schools to issue $10 million in bonds for a Goshen community center and $7.5 million in bonds for improvements at Goshen Middle School and Goshen High School. The school board will approve the timetable at its next meeting.

Organizers of the community center project have recently been presenting details of the proposal for the community center.

“The actual design of the building will not be done until after the referendum is successful,” said Bruce Stahly, who retired as superintendent of Goshen Community Schools earlier this year and became director of the community center project.

If voters approve both referendums and the community center and its multiple pools is constructed, Goshen High School and Goshen Middle School will be able to close their pool areas and renovate those sections of the school.

The high school's pool area will become a fitness/weight area since the pool lockers are used by other major sports in their season and the existing weight room “is pretty pathetic,” Stahly said. The high school will add on a new music area, as well, and remodel the existing music area.

Goshen Middle School's pool will become a band room. The current band room will become a new orchestra room, while the current orchestra room will become special education classrooms, according to Goshen Superintendent Diane Woodworth. A new fitness area will also be added along with a new food-preparation area in the cafeteria.

Stahly explained that “both of those projects were part of what we were looking at back in 2008” as the school system made plans for an intermediate school. “This is not a made-up need. This need was already there and identified back in 2008.” The school system was ready to move forward with a referendum then until the economy crashed and they put those plans on hold.

After the renovations and repair work at the schools, leftover funds will go to “replace Phend Field,” Stahly said. “That's the baseball diamond. In 2015 it's thought that INDOT (Indiana Department of Transportation) will finally get around to constructing U.S. 33, and that goes right through our present baseball diamond.”

Goshen Community Center Inc., the nonprofit group pushing for the center, will form a political action committee because once the referendum process starts, city and school personnel will be unable to promote the project while at work or using any public funds.

“They can answer questions,” said Dr. Don Minter, one of the promoters of the facility, “but they cannot promote it.”

Right now the board consists of Stahly, an executive with IU Health Goshen, a member of the city park board, a representative of Greencroft and Bill Rieth. It will be expanded to allow the city and the schools to have majority control of the board because of their owning of the facility.

Stahly said the city and the schools will own the facility, while the nonprofit board will operate it. They're seeking $6 million in endowments to fund the facility for the first five years before it becomes self-sustaining. They're also looking at selling naming rights for the entire center and parts of it. “We need an endowment to make sure that we don't go back to either the city or the schools for additional money for operation of this building,” Stahly said.

The school will pitch in toward operation of the pools in terms of usage fees, but it will cost the schools “less than they're paying now for the operation of the pools,” Stahly said.

The high school and middle school pools are aging, resulting in some expensive upkeep and likely higher maintenance and equipment replacement costs, Woodworth said. It makes sense to her to join with other local groups to create the community center.

“If we share our resources,” she said in an interview, “we can all have something a little nicer.”

At the Monday school board meeting, the board and administrators also thanked retiring school board members Maynard Hartsough and Judy Beard for their time and service to the board. Hartsough has served for more than 12 years, while Beard has served for eight years.

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