The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District needs money to complete the second phase of its roof replacement schedule and upgrade the playing field at Homer High School with turf. School board members approved a bond proposition totaling $22.9 million for the improvements. Now the borough assembly will discuss whether or not the question will make it onto the Oct. 1 ballot where voters can decide if the projects will receive funding.
Some of the rooves on school buildings throughout the district are more than 40 years old, which is about the age they stop being useful. Tustumena Elementary, Skyview, Paul Banks Elementary and Kenai Central High School are just a few of the buildings included in the second phase of the project. Voters in the district approved a similar bond proposition for the first phase a few years ago. What’s different about this question is the inclusion of Homer High’s field upgrade.
School board members discussed the issue during their regular meeting Monday night. Vice President Liz Downing said she understands including the Homer field could be a problem for some board members. Some consider it a distraction from the main roofing project, but Downing says something needs to be done now.
“On the Homer High field, my son busted his leg, went to the emergency room and was on crutches for a couple of weeks,” she said.
The field replacement, which totals around $2 million, has been on the capital priorities list for the district. But funding at the state level could never come together. Though, the legislature did approve funding for upgrades at Soldotna and Kenai Central high schools at the end of this past session. Board member Penny Vadla said of course she wants all schools to have quality fields and facilities, but isn’t sold on including the field upgrade for this proposition.
“What doesn’t settle with me is the fact that this really is the second phase of roof repair. And to me, roof repair is the most important. I think having the two together might put a message out there to people that we’re tying two things together that really aren’t connected as far as a bond issue,” she said.
Vadla said she would prefer they were separate questions. Board member Tim Navarre disagreed.
“I think… the other argument could be made, why do we always just vote on rooves? Why don't we ever get to vote on something that the community gets to use,” he said.
He said the voters should decide if both projects are worthy of funding. Other members in favor of leaving the combination alone echoed Downing’s concerns about the safety of the kids who play on the field. Sammy Crawford went so far as to say she didn’t want to see Homer students punished by not having the same turf upgrades as other schools.
Board President Joe Arness called the combination bond the “wrong move.” He said he’d like to see every school get new artificial turfs, but this process is taking advantage of voters’ good will.
“And I do believe that it will be a black eye for the district and the borough by the time we get around to Election Day,” he said.
Three school board members and three borough assembly members will be up for re-election in October. Board members Arness, Vadla and Anderson all voted “no” to allowing the combination bond on the ballot.