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Jeremy Gaston/Herald-Chronicle
USD 434 board members Zack Anshutz and Chris Kendall address concerns about the requested bond issue with district residents at an informational meeting March 21 in Scranton. The district will vote on the bond Tuesday.

Jeremy Gaston | Managing Editor

SCRANTON—Members of USD 434 Board of Education wrapped up a round of information meetings March 21 at the Scranton Attendance Center. The meetings were held in each of the district communities, drawing around 25 voters to the ELM Building in Carbondale, and a dozen or less to the meetings in Overbrook and Scranton.

“They just want to know the efficiency, why we’re choosing domes,” said USD 434 Board Member Chris Kendall. “It wasn’t over cost or anything like that. Everyone was for it because of the programs supported by it.”

The key parts of the 15-year $4.6 million bond are two monolithic domes. One will house an auxiliary gym, the other an auditorium aimed at expanding fine arts, each with seating for around 500. The plans also include a band practice room and wrestling room, each replacing smaller facilities currently used by each program.
Board member Zack Anshutz told the crowd at the Scranton meeting district enrollment had leveled off, and that the board was more focused on improving facilities for activities and athletic programs.

“We’re not seeing enrollment is going up,” Anshutz said. “We’re having more participation.”

“We need something to address the athletic and activity problems that we have,” Kendall said.

Like the recent USD 420 Osage City bond issue, the timing reflects the possibly removal of state funding options, which have been on the state legislature’s chopping block in recent sessions.

“The reason we think this is beneficial to do this right now is the 44 percent state aid,” Anshutz said. “There’s question about whether that’s going to still be there.”

The state funding applies to the new construction. Anshutz said that recent improvements to art, science and other rooms had been covered by capital outlay, an issue he said voters had with the last failed bond issue. The current bond issue focuses primarily on new space.

“We’re not throwing a $14 million bond out there,” Anshutz said. “This is just addressing these needs that we want, with the low cost of $4.6 million, it’s a lot lower than the last bond was up for.

“I’ve always though we needed growth at our school,” Anshutz added. “We hope this will get us going.”

The bond will wrap up funding on the final 18 months of a 20-year bond issued in 1995, which addressed new construction at the districts attendance centers. Anshutz noted that would mean a change in the tax rate sooner than when the bonds were set to expire.

“While your taxes won’t go to zero like they would if this bond were to die off,” Anshutz said. “They will go lower.”

The bonds monolithic domes are designed to be stronger and more efficient than other means of construction considered.

“(The alternative) was going to be like a Morton building,” Anshutz said. “These domes are concrete. They have 12-foot stem walls on the side. The cost to heat them is 50 to 60 percent less than conventional buildings. They use these a lot in Oklahoma for shelters, because they don’t have basements. They could be certified, but if there’s a tornado, you’re not going to get to your car and drive there, you’re going in your basement.”

Anshutz said it was unlikely to receive FEMA funds for the project.
Anshutz and Kendall also noted that with the new construction, the district would be able take out the stage, expand the commons and add storage to the kitchen.

“We wanted everything as a hub right here when the commons area is,” Anshutz said, explaining the location of the two domes to the south and west of the existing gym and commons area.
Concerns at the Scranton meeting addressed pieces of the project, but didn’t oppose the overall bond. One attendee questioned whether the non-hardwood floor would be an acceptable alternative for the gym.

“My request is that you research that gym floor,” said Corky Green, telling board members it would be difficult to care for. “This district has been notorious for not maintaining things. I don’t not like the gym, I just don’t like the floor.”

Other’s offered overwhelming support.

“I think you’re going a good job,” Gerald Fischer said. “I think you need every bit of it.”

In addition to the meetings, Anshutz said committee members would make one more round of visits to educate voters.

“We’re going to go door to door to make sure everybody knows,” Anshutz said. “We can’t really afford to do all this without the assistance of the community.”

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