Archive for Monday, July 8, 2013

School board agrees to further talks on site for career and tech education center

July 8, 2013


The Lawrence school board agreed Monday night to continue talks with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce about an alternative site for a new career and technical education center that is to be funded in part with a recently passed bond issue.

But several board members said they still have reservations about the proposed deal, at least as it's been described so far. Chief among those would be how to build community support for a plan that is different from the one they advertised to voters when they sought passage of a $92.5 million bond issue in April.

“This board will need to do some education with voters about why we are doing this,” said board member Shannon Kimball.

Newly elected board president Rick Ingram echoed that concern.

“The community would be justifiably frustrated if we just said this is what we've decided, without any public input,” he said.

In April, voters approved that bond issue, which included $5.7 million to develop new classroom space at the district's existing Career and Community Connection Center near Holcom Park, commonly known as the Holcom Center.

The plan now being floated by Chamber officials, however, calls for putting the center in available space at the Hiper Technology, Inc., building at 2920 Haskell Ave.

According to Chamber president Doug Gaumer, that site would offer about 55,000 net square feet of space that could be used for both high school and adult education students, compared to the estimated 30,000 square feet available at the Holcom Center.

In a telephone interview after the board meeting, Gaumer said details still have not been worked out, but the conceptual plan so far would include the following:

• A consortium of seven area banks would finance the purchase of the Hiper Technology building and lease back to Hiper the portion of the building it currently occupies.

• The Economic Development Corporation of Lawrence and Douglas County would assume ownership of the building and be responsible for repaying the low-interest mortgage.

• Another consortium of educational institutions would form a Technical Education Center, offering both high school and adult career training programs. Those would include the school district; Johnson County, Neosho County and Kansas City, Kan., community colleges; Washburn Institute of Technology in Topeka; and Flint Hills Technical College in Emporia.

Gaumer said the rent paid by Hiper Technology would be the base source of revenue for repaying the mortage. Other details of the financing have not been determined, he said, but the banks would be willing to let a certain amount of loss accrue over time, based on confidence that the new center would eventually become profitable.

“We feel confident the tech center can make a profit over time,” he said.

School board members, however, said that plan raises issues that would have to be resolved before they could accept it. Those include:

• Ownership of the building. Board member Randy Masten said he would be opposed to spending spending bond proceeds to renovate and equip a building that the district does not own.

Kimball agreed, saying: “Wherever we build our building, the school district needs to own that property.”

• Delaying plans: District officials have said they want the new career and technical education center to be operational by the fall of 2015. To meet that goal, officials said, they need to begin construction no later than early 2014.

In order to meet that goal, they said, any potential deal with the Chamber on a joint tech center would need to be finalized no later than October or November of this year.

Rick Ingram, the newly elected board president, said that before any deal is reached, he wants to hold a series of public meetings to receive community input on the plan.

In the meantime, board members said, they plan to continue investigating the original plan of putting the facility at the Holcom Center.


somebodynew 4 years, 7 months ago

Well, yes Big_B, but don't be afraid to "just say NO" to the Chamber. You have a plan that the VOTERS approved, be very cautious about veering from that. We have had the "bait and switch" before.

A rushed through (AKA - Rock Chalk Park) does not sound like a good idea. Sounds more like some of the 'good ole boys' needing to make money off the taxpayers - - AGAIN.

no_thanks 4 years, 7 months ago

Did you read the article? The proposed structure for ownership of the building does not involve public dollars, so how does someone make money off the taxpayers. I would hope the school works with the Banks, the consortium of other educational institutions, and the Chamber to create a great asset for the community (imagine how much wine taxpayers would have saved if the School Board had approved a District stadium for athletic fields rather than individual fields) that serves high schoolers and adults in providing tech Ed as this town does not need two tech Ed centers.

Robert Rauktis 4 years, 7 months ago

Rock Chalk Park & Tech Center. It has a nice ring.

usesomesense 4 years, 7 months ago

The reality is that the figures for the bond issue for the most part were just dividing up the amount they had to spend while keeping taxes the same. A greater focus should have been on the tech center, but sadly wasn't. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that basic network infrastructure improvements to what was originally described as at the middle and senior high schools funding exceeded the amount to create an entirely new school (not necessarily the whole facility but at least everything inside it and NOT considering operational costs in the bond - which will be a whole other problem once something's built.

What the chamber is proposing is on a much grander scale and for it to be successful it should be on a grander scale. However if the district is going to lease space there MUST be a guaranteed fixed lease rate for at least 30 years with reasonable purchase option while only locking the district in for a maximum rental term of 10 years. As the facility would be funded with public dollars the property should be subject to tax abatement while it is occupied by the district, and the budget from the district at this time shouldn't change.

The notion however that if the school district does this and it 'should be profitable' is completely absurd and conflicts with every action ever by this district.

I would also suggest that the district sell at a REAL profit the additional land around Langston Hughes elementary (that was supposed to have been purchased to build a middle school there eventually but now has been deemed 'too small' and apply those proceeds toward the technical school, and the facility could be designed to have secondary technical schools in the same facilities that are privately owned and paying rent. The school district's part has introductory classes and assesses natural talents and aptitudes, letting students get their feet wet - then ultimately they get pointed down the hall to the MSE/COMPTIA training center if their into computers, or the electrician training and certification program or plumbing or HVAC or whatever.

William Ed 4 years, 7 months ago

It's deja vu all over again. Since the District has no set of goals, they have no plan for where they are going. This is change "A' and there are 26 letters in the alphabet. Does anyone really think that the District will stick to the projects defined in the Bond which was sold to the unaware voters? Stand by for change(s).

Catalano 4 years, 7 months ago

Umm, what is "The Economic Development Corporation of Lawrence and Douglas County"? Details, please.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

Just good ole boys wanting to soak taxpayers on a real estate deal. We don't need the chamber of commerce making any decisions.

The USD 497 BOE owns this property with plenty of space to expand in the future.

Let's use land the taxpayers own. Which allows way more flexibility. I want a Vo-Tech campus that also houses some academic space that accommodates Vo Tech students who want to graduate high school. This facility should be open to anyone else which would help pay for the Vo-Tech campus/program.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

We want to promote small business entrepreneurs and/or highly skilled technicians that will move forward and make some money.

Subjects such as Website management and design, Graphic design, Cuiinary, alternative energy training, horticultural technology, auto technicians...... etc etc etc

This can never replace a 4 year degree however people must learn 4 year degrees do not have jobs waiting like in the good ole days.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

Dan Simons offered this concept.

"We have tried to show the city/chamber and school district the 30k square feet of needs and the estimated 60-70k square feet of Adult Vo-Tech needs can be cost efficiently met at the Riverfront building. Big open floor plan, extremely cost efficient to up-fit for classroom and demonstration space, all on city land, with city owned parking deck. Honestly they appear to have zero interest. They believe the weight load of big hands on stuff, ie engine,s air compressors etc, would be too much for the building , even though 45 thousand feet of space is on ground level huge concrete slab"

Not the worst idea in the world with one exception. Not enough room for expansion nor enough parking space to accommodate expansion.

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