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Live-blog: School board approves high school construction projects
9:41 There are a few more items, but the that's end of the fun stuff. I'm signing off for tonight. Thanks for tuning in, and look for more in tomorrow's edition.9:38 That's a wrap. This project is moving forward. Opponents look forlorn. Maurer shking hands with Shelly Bock. Crowd is clearing out.Loveland says high schools still must be good neighbors.9:37 Merrill motions to approve lease purchase. Passes.9:36 Moved, seconded, passes.9:36 Mitchell motions that they board vote for project. Robinson motions approval for Landplan to be project engineer.9:34 Morgan: This is a fiscally responsible way to help our kids. Strongly supporting this. Looks forward to seeing alternative plans for temporary bleachers, with eye to a future complex.9:32 Morgan motions to add the $1.4 million to the '05. Passes.There have been many legitimate arguments for and against the projects. Ultimately, the overall goals of fields is a good project, and LHS parking situation is "ridiculous. It's amazing no one has been seriously injured in that situation." This project helps.9:31 Minder: It's not our job to interpret or enforce land-use law. Agrees with city's interpretation.9:29 Minder apologizes to public, board and Allen for losing his temper earlier. He thinks this is a good project, and doesn't think it's bad for the neighborhood. There are interests beyond those of the neighborhood that must be considered. This project has been well constructed and well designed.9:27 Parking on-site and off-site will be sufficient for audience, says C.L. Maurer. Students could tailgate at South, and be bused over. Possible parking at KU and Broken Arrow, too.9:23 Weseman: We're not recommending performance contracting b/c we'll save $2 million with other options.9:23 It's just one of those things where you have to say it's time to make that investment, she says.9:22 Loveland: There are two genders now. She hopes parents today don't have to worry about their kids getting to an off-site location, as she did when her kids were in school.9:19 Minder says he's not an advocate of a big sports complex.9:17 Weseman says Title IX requirements would be met with the new projects. Things have changed since 1950s, with more girls' sports today. It's much more complex than it appears on the surface.9:14 Minder: What else could we use the funds from the bond for?Weseman: Restrooms at Central, and other projects, but these fields have been discussed for 20 years. This is the most cost effective way we've found.9:12 Mitchell: Several people have asked the board to take more time on this. But this is a process we've been discussing for a long time. I think we have studied this, we've discussed it, we've held a series of public meetings, we have listed to the concerns of the neighbors...we have made modifications, and I think it's time we move this forward. I don't think it would be appropriate for us to take more time to study this.This causes some commotion in crowd, with one audience member shouting in anger and leaving.9:10 Bracciano: Maintenance will be insignficant cost, investment. Fields will be very easy to maintain.9:03 Grant: We reduced taxes...still has $7 million coming in thru taxes. What we're saying tonight is that we'd take a million through their income and pay off debts from this project. We would not be raising taxes on this proposal. We're voting to utilize some of what we've got.9:01 We're talking about the feasibility of removable seating. They could be used at other sites, and wouldn't be an eyesore during non-football games, says Mary Loveland.9:00 Talk of a district-wide sports complex. 10,000 seats? Still a long way off, according to the board/administration.8:52 Scott Morgan: Is this is a good time to go into the market? Asks Artebury, the financial adviser.Artebury: Lease purchase is part of a municipal bond market. Over the last year, that market has had turmoil, like other markets, but right now, if district went with this plan, you could complete the financing. Rates would be higher than in the past -- 5percent, instead of 4-- but could be done in this market. Who knows next week, though, he says.8:47 The bond issue was specific to secondary school improvements and Broken Arrow...they were targeted for those places, and must be used at secondary schools and Broken Arrow. Mitchell: This is money that remained after the bond...can't be used for elementary...or academic/salary projects...This is an appropriate use for these funds.8:46 Capital outlay funds and general operating funds cannot be co-mingled. So funds you have for capital outlay can only be used for certain things; general funds are for academics/salary. You can't move funds either way. 8:45 John Mitchell asks about financing: Asks to decipher capital funds vs. general funds.8:42 Linda Robinson asks how we got to having practice fields to two sports complexes. Weseman says it stems from ideas that started coming out in 1986, plus the disrepair of Haskell Stadium, which can't be upgraded without (literally) an act of Congress. Some day in the future we might have a sports complex (per PLAY study), but that's a long way off. This is what we need now.Bracciano says they looked at PLAY study, and they took some ideas from it. This is very consistent with the study from a couple of years ago.8:40 Actually, the whole gang will be available for questions: That's Rodriguez, Bracciano, Johnson, Maurer and the district's finance adviser.8:39 Rodriguez will take questions from the board. Audience is smaller, after audience session.8:38 And we're back. 8:31 That's the end of the list of people speaking up for and against the projects. We're taking five...will be back soon.8:30 Other coaches/administrators tell him it's great to see Lawrence moving forward, but would Lawrence b/c of a tradition that says we don't get things done around here.8:30 Soccer could be played tonight with artificial turf, he says.8:29 Comparing these fields to JoCo. We're not trying to keep up with Blue Valley, he says. We're trying to keep up with Bonner Springs.8:27 Comparing fields of the past...mentions overuse, under-preparedness, poor conditions of other fields in the city. Athletics is good for academics, he says.8:25 Shelly Bock is up at the mic. He's spoken in support of the projects before.8:21 Sven Alstrom is at the mic. Feels the school board needs to "step up to your responsibility and take control." Says leadership of district, Weseman, has set the board in the wrong direction for not including everyone in process, not being forthcoming in some aspects. Says the process questions Scott Morgan's leadership.Questions timing of project and responsibility of expenditures. Mentions drainage problems in neighborhood. Says the review process does not reflect well on school board or city commission. 8:19 Dietrich Bernhardt, president of University Place neighbors...says school district never contacted them about projects, though the impact would be less than Centennial neighbors. Understands project improvements have been made; complains parking in neighborhood is a problem since LHS students use neighborhood for overflow.Doesn't feel like district officials "reassured" the neighbors about these projects.8:18 Complains not enough materials have been shown to public, like budget...she's not the first who has mentioned that tonight or in the past few weeks.8:17 These projects show we need to be better than BV or SM, though funds here are much less. Worried about harassment of neighbors after projects are complete. Property values will go down after constructions.8:15 Jeanne Klein is at the mic. She's in the footprint of both projects (LHS and Centennial). She's concerned about the messages that are being sent to kids. You don't have to share, you can get what you want when you want it, your desires are more important than others'.8:14 Why is there so much left over from last bond issue? Did schools get short-changed? Now is not the time to spend money we don't have.8:13 Lawrence is not so big that a drive across town is alarming for our teenagers.How are you going to pay for lease purchase? Replacement of turf every year? What about plans to build a sports complex in two to four years, she asks. (I don't think we're looking at two to four years, from my conversations). 8:11 Allen steps down. Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods is up. Concerns about timing and funding of projects. We're spending $4 million on duplicate fields so we can look like Johnson County, at a time of economic crisis.8:09 Says the two are unrelated, and personally attaching it to him is out of line.He's laying it down. Asks if Allen, who's lived there since '71, has ever advocated for students and their facilities. Allen says "What are you talking about?"It's getting heated, and board member Linda Robinson calls it inappropriate and calls for end of Allen's speech. 8:05 Allen is pointing out board member Rich Minder. Says they support a lot of projects he supports. They want his support, too. Points out a Minder quote in the paper about a homeless shelter and its SUP. Using it to point out how a small homeless shelter could be a problem for some...how about a 4,000-seat stadium near historic homes? So says Allen."We ask you, on behalf of the neighborhood, to support us."Minder asks to respond: The analogy between these two land uses is entirely inappropriate, he says. Minder raises his voice at Allen, says he resents bringing personal business into public square.8:04 "That's a stadium," Padget says. He shows a picture of stadium, which he says was provided earlier by the district. Do you think a stadium is different than a grandstand vs. sports complex? All terminology I've heard.Now Arley Allen is up at the mic. He lives near LHS.8 p.m. 4,000 spectators "is a stadium." That's Entertainment and Spectator Sports designation, not Active Recreation, as it is designated today. AR could be a zoo or a park or Memorial Stadium.He's arguing the projects are designated incorrectly, thus have many problems, ranging from usage to parking. Can 829 parking spots accommodate 4,000 spectators?7:58 Code sets "minimal" acceptable standards for health, safety, welfare. At LHS, it appears that planning discussions are based on intentions, but legally, when you imply code, you need to deal with physical properties, not applicant's intentions, he says.7:57 Steve Padget, an architect and KU professor...reprising a presentation he gave to the City Commission about different code designations (see my story in today's paper).7:53 I'll have to apologize in advance if I butcher anyone's name. Larry Floatman is up at the mic, addressing board members.He's surprised that the costs have jumped so much. And is opposed to spending money that schools could use for other needs.Craig Grant asked a minute ago that people not repeat what others bring up, so we're not hearing the same argument over and over.Now Joe Patterson is up, a 1955 LHS graduate. He's concerned about "getting too heavy into athletics, and letting athletics take over academics." Recommends a long, hard look at how we can use Haskell Stadium vs. these projects. Mentions the economy, and how this is a large expenditure."I just have some feelings we're going too far too fast.'7:51 @hometownhawk, yes soccer fields are WEST of La. Thanks for bringing it up.Audience time: Julie Jaspersen, president of FSHS Marching Band Boosters. They support improvements b/c it'll save them money in transport, slowing wear and tear on equipment, logistics, emergency/safety issues.7:50 David Arteberry, of George K. Baum, the district's financial adviser is here to answer questions. 7:47 tonight they're asking for approval to move forward with football/soccer/track/band facilities at Free State and LHS. They will come back next month to get approval on further projects. And again in Spring 2008 to see where everything lies.@hometownhawk...give me a sec to look at these plans and I'll see where I goofed.7:47 Johnson's done, Rodriguez back up for more. Looks like they've figured out their financing questions, and at the last minute too. They were still going through this today.7:44 They don't have the lease proceeds on hand; they'd have to use money they have on hand to start with first phases of project: Football, soccer, track and band fields at each school. That part of phase 1 is about $2.9 million. They've got those funds, so they could move forward.More people filing in. They must be reading the blog, and realizing we're getting to the good stuff.7:43 There are still some costs that are TBD, and others they'll look for bidders, But they'll build in phases, giving them more time to ID those costs.7:42 FYI, re: the bond issue. the $2.4 million was directed towards high school projects, so it's still being used for that type of funding.7:40 Estimates of project have come from a communal pricing list used by many organizations in the country. It breaks down, piece-by-piece, how much everything will cost.7:40 The estimates, including interest they'd pay, are about $10.4 million.7:38 2005 bond issue: Interest has accured, and most of the other projects from that bond are complete. There is about $4.8 million remaining in the bond funds. She says they'll ask for $3.8 go to the projects; in the past the board approved 2.4 million before.Then they've got a combined total of $11.8 million for the projects. 7:35 Lease purchase option looks like their preferred option. They'd borrow $8 million over 10 years. Certificates of participation would allow them to expand to a broad market.On either option they'd pay just over $1 million a year, with interest of just over 5 percent.She's reviewed the school district budget. $13.5 million budget. Just about $10 million has been committed to projects. There's about $3 million that has not been committed yet. So those funds could go towards funding the $1 million payment.7:33 Summary of financial options: bond issue, capital outlay bond, Kansas Financing Authority, performance contracting, capital lease (includes direct lease w/ a bank, or a certifiicate of participation, with a bank, but investors can purchase a certificate in the project). This is what they've explored. She's going to discuss recommendations. Sorry about any typos.7:32 Now Kathy Johnson, finance director, will speak. So far, it's been unclear how much the projects would cost, and where the money would come from. Should be interesting.7:31 Parking at LHS will almost be doubled. Last figures I saw would put it at 829 parking spots total. More parking at Centennial, too.7:27 They've got diagrams being projected onto the screen. A baseball field is going behind Centennial, soccer field is just south of Louisiana Street on LHS site. Tennis courts going behind new parking at Centennial.Under the tennis courts will be a storm drain system to detain water on-site. Bracciano: They're doing additioanl drainage on west side of football field on Alabama. Fields are astroturf, with gravel and a drain system beneath the field. Saturation point is 6 inches per hour; you eliminate any surface runoff with this turf. It's an inch per hour now.All the water gets taken off LHS site, and put into storm sewer, eliminating flow into neighborhood.The current tennis courts are in disrepair. It's a joint project now with city of Lawrence, costing about $500,000 for the district. I think we'll hear more about this later.7:26 Now the plans for LHS.7:23 They've been working on the plan since August '07. They're going over the Free State plan. Free State's been almost absent from the conversation, since there's really been no opposition to building at the school.They're going to build football, baseball, softball, soccer fields, all with artificial turf. More parking, too.Bracciano: All the facilities exist there now, but they're going to upgrade them.7:22 Bracciano and C.L. Maurer, from Landplan Engineering, are at the mic.7:21 Our intent is to be a good neighbor. Lawrence schools will have facilities like other cities.7:20 Meetings with neighbors in the spring resulted in changes, improvements to plan: Lighting, sound system and drainage problems were identified, as was parking. People could park at Broken Arrow and South Junior High for games; a traffic plan was submitted to the city Oct. 2.7:16 Lack of facilities is a safety and socio-economic issue. Some kids can't get to off-site practices; off-site travel increases risk. Rodriguez is recapping FSHS principal Ed West's story, as he dealt with a death and severe injury of student athletes at another school.Other schools have threatened to cancel events in Lawrence because of poor field conditions. These new fields would be better, safer, well-lit. She references the PLAY study, which talks about how athletic facilities could be upgraded. Artificial turf is green, eliminating fertilizer, runoff. This year district will pay about $80k for other facilities, like Haskell. "In one year along, $80k is a challenge." That's $400k over five years.District will save expenses for landscaping, which will help pay for plan.7:15 High school activities, like sports, promote citizenship, sportsmanship, pride and are good for the development of young people. "We believe we must do whatever we can to facilities student participation."We need to address outdoor inequity, at Free State and LHS, but also between genders.7:14 "I want us to take a step back and recap what has taken place over the last year." The facilities are "much-needed." We'll here about history of projects, financing, recommendations.7:12 OK, here we go. Mary Rodriguez, chief operations officer, is up at the podium. Kathy Johnson, finance director, will speak. So will Tom Bracciano, facilities director. Grant is laying out some ground rules. District staff will give the report, then they'll get questions from the public.7:07 Report from Superintendent Randy Weseman, followed by school board president Craig Grant, who will talk about the superintendent search....stay tuned.7:07 Motions accepted unanimously.7:03 Motion to name Schwegler Auditorium after former school district employee Charles Mead; Bryant Green, son of local artist Robert Green offers to donate for four of his father's works to the school district. motion to contract with a school psychological service at cost of $20,000; motion to purchase National Geographic fiction leveled reading books; and a motion to purchase synergistic modules for Central Junior High, at a cost of $26,8407:01 It's pretty full for a school board meeting. About 35 people are in the audience.7 p.m. Here we go. Agenda approved, now we're going to the recognition of the audience...if anyone has anything to see about issues beyond the construction projects, this is their chance...and no one stands up.6:56 We're about to get underway. There are a few provisional measures before we get to the report on the LHS/Free State athletic facilities. They usually move pretty quickly, and I'll gloss over the details on those. I'm guessing we'll get into the thick of it by about 7:15 or so.The Lawrence school board meets tonight and will hear the school district's plans to build athletic facilities at Lawrence High School, Free State High School and Centennial School.The plans have been hotly debated by neighbors of Lawrence High, who say that the project violates city development codes and will have negative effects on the Centennial and University Place neighborhoods.The school district says the fields will create a safer environment for students, while providing equal facilities for both high schools.I'll be live-blogging the meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. tonight at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. The plans have already been approved by the planning commission and City Commission, so it's possible this is the last chance neighbors and the school district will have to appeal to the school board.Check back at the Schoolhouse Talk blog this evening for continuous updates.