Archive for Thursday, October 30, 2008

Letters to the Editor

October 30, 2008

To the editor:

I am a 1983 Graduate from Baldwin High School and a veteran of the United States Air Force and would like to thank the students from Baldwin High School for the ceremony honoring all the veterans at the ceremony that occurred at half time versus Santa Fe Trail.

Having served in the Air Force and still serving the country as a DOD Civilian at

NORAD-USNORTHCOM, that was truly appreciated. Thank you to all the students that were involved in putting that together. As I wasn't able to get to the students to thank them personally, I felt this was the next best forum to show my appreciation for the work they put in to show their appreciation and support for what all veterans have accomplished in support of the United States.

Robert M. Barnett

Colorado Springs

To the editor:

Soon the Baldwin School District will vote on a school bond issue.

It seems to me that one of the critical issues that should be considered would be whether there is a written or verbal guarantee that schools at Marion Springs and at Vinland would remain open, not only now, but in the foreseeable future.

By almost every criteria these schools have been excellent academic and scholastic institutions. Isn’t this the essence of school? We are learning on the national scene that bigger is not necessarily better.

Let’s not have a situation where the district wants your money, but it doesn’t want to keep these excellent schools.

Leo Kerwin

Wellsville

To the editor:

The school board and administrators say they need to educate the public about their needs. Approximately three years ago they hired a consultant of their own choice. His report said we were not going to grow enough to need a new school. They had a telephone survey taken about a bond issue. This was against a bond. This proposed bond is to be just a start of at least three different bonds.

They used to talk about unfunded mandates. Now they are telling us we need to pay for Parents as Teachers, Rainbow Preschool and all-day kindergarten. Have they even noticed the economy?

The board is telling us that it’s a good time for a bond because interest rates are low. It is not a good time for more debt when we are paying for two bonds to be paid off in 2012 and 2018. I don’t know if the local option bond is one of these two bonds or if that is additional. The board also tells us the state will pay 27 percent. We as taxpayers pay that. If the state has the money, why don’t they just pay off our old bonded indebtedness?

Now let’s talk maintenance. No home or business owner would spend big money to redo usable parking lots while saying they needed a new roof on one of their buildings. They say we need a new roof on Baldwin Junior High School. The board says they are obligated to sell school property to the highest bidder if this bond passes. If that is true, aren’t they obligated to keep this property in good condition? Take a look at the steps on the north end of the old gym and notice the broken concrete. The gym is used for a lot of activities for school-aged children.

It’s time to just say no more bonded indebtedness. Let’s not put these children in debt for 30 years or more. Where were all these proactive people just a few years ago? You probably could have saved the taxpayers several million dollars by building one school for grades K through 5, instead of changing schools after second grade.

Joe Scraper

Baldwin City

To the editor:

Many groups and organizations in our community work so closely together, it’s hard to tell that they’re separate groups. The Baldwin Community Arts Council and the Lumberyard Arts Center Project have been such great partners, many think they’re one and the same. When the Maple Leaf started the Lumberyard Live music venue, people initially were confused – was the Lumberyard Arts Center Project part of the Maple Leaf Festival? Personally, I think this is a good thing. It shows how similar all of our goals really are – to serve the Baldwin City community and to enhance what is already a wonderful place to live. The teamwork we have here in this community is a source of pride. How community members and organizations come together to meet their goals is so critical to all of our success. The Maple Leaf Festival is proud of the crowds we bring in that promote our city and, in turn, the projects and organizations such as the Lumberyard and the Midland Railroad and the countless other non-profits that benefit from food sales and promotion of their goals. The fact that the lumberyard wasn’t available for the Lumberyard Live music venue is only a small part of the problem. The city’s decision to pursue shutting down the lumberyard cost them invaluable exposure to potential funding, reduced the amount of money the Maple Leaf has to support other non-profit and community projects and sent a message of discord to the entire volunteer community.

On Monday night after Maple Leaf, many of us spoke to the city council in an effort to communicate our distress and concern that our city administration and council is not 100 percent behind all of our efforts. Some were confused as to how we’ve gotten this message of non-support. I felt it was important to point out our major concerns. This isn’t just about the short timing on closing the lumberyard. It’s about the countless unanswered phone calls and e-mails and visits with city employees regarding many of our community enhancement projects. The lumberyard has experienced this lack of communication with devastating effects. The Maple Leaf committee recently donated a sound system in excess of $20,000 to the city, only to find that the careful plans and schematics provided weren’t followed by the city, resulting in a diminished usage of the system. This system was to replace the prior speakers that were taken down with the renovations. What a disappointment to know that our generous donation to the community was not given the attention it needed.

The community should know that these are not just pet projects of a few volunteers. These are projects that benefit everyone. And everyone in the community should be asking our city administration and city council if they have the same goals that we do – to serve our city.

Annie France

Maple Leaf Festival Committee

Baldwin City

To the editor:

I would like to share some thoughts on the upcoming USD 348 bond election. In my 40-plus years of teaching and coaching in the state of Kansas (which includes 10 different schools in all six of the current classifications), I have seen many educational trends and initiatives come and go. Some were successful, many were not. Most of the successes involved good teachers, good facilities and good technology.

A school’s environment is extremely important to the success of its students, as is its pride. The Baldwin public schools are a source of great pride for this community. I know this because I coached teams that competed against Baldwin before I became a coach for Baldwin High School. I can tell you that Baldwin’s pride has always been palpable to opponents, as well as to the Bulldog faithful. The energy of pride should not be taken for granted; it can be a fleeting thing. Once a school loses it, it is hard to get back. To keep this a proud school and community, I support the upcoming bond election. I don’t feel we should pass the bond just to “keep up with the Joneses,” but rather because of a real need to maintain our facilities. Some are outdated or in need of major repair and others simply don’t exist at this time. Passing the bond issue will improve both the Baldwin schools’ learning environment and the community’s pride in our schools.

One of the goals, in fact the number one goal in my opinion, for a school should be the maximizing of the potential of every student. I know from my position as an assistant track coach here, how difficult it is to work with track athletes at Liston Stadium. It is very hard to give each athlete the individual attention needed while we are constantly competing with the Baker University teams for space, as they are simultaneously using the same facility.

Think about how the proposed auditorium might inspire students to become more involved and take more pride if they have their own building and do not have to rely on using Rice Auditorium at Baker. Correction of the facilities problems will also allow BHS to better host league and sub-state contests. These are all great events for the school and for the pride of our community.

Finally, passage of the bond issue will qualify Baldwin for a federal grant that would improve the safety and stability of existing school buildings and the new structure will be designed to withstand an EF-5 tornado. Improving our facilities for the safety of our children and the community makes the passing of this bond a “no brainer” in my book. Vote “yes.”

Richard C. Ebel

Baldwin City

To the editor:

We need to replace the half-century-old, out-of- space, unsafe and leaky high-maintenance Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center and the Baldwin Junior High School roof and HVAC system. These needs must be taken care of now and without the bond, the money would have to come from capital outlay, which would deplete that fund already earmarked for scheduled maintenance, technology, buses, parking lots and more. Don’t purposely shortchange our children.

We need to offer our students all the up-to-date technology that other students in our area have. Our students are desperately behind. If the bond passes, technology will receive half a million dollars of the bond money, which will be distributed to all schools immediately. Don’t inexcusably shortchange our children.

We need to replace the nonfunctional, inadequate, outdated auditorium. A facility is needed that will lend itself to the same modern fine arts curriculum and opportunities that other schools in our area have. Don’t intentionally shortchange our children.

We need to build decent ball fields and a practice track. We have great school and city sports programs, but I’ve seen first-hand that we have the worst ball facilities in the area. If the bond passes, the city/recreation commission would operate and maintain the ball fields. The one track in town is unsafe due to congestion when hundreds of tracksters from Baldwin High School, BJHS, Baker University and Baker’s spring football players practice at the same time. Let’s not deliberately shortchange our students or our community.

We need to be fiscally responsible and pass this bond. The state would pay 27 cents for every dollar of the bond, making the total bond $16 million, not $22 million. Unfortunately, we can’t count on the state help in the future. As taxpayers, we are already paying part of the 27 percent paid to other districts who have passed bond issues. Lets get our share of our own money, and not shortchange ourselves. The district has obtained a grant funding two tornado safe rooms to be constructed in the new primary center and auditorium, but we must pass the bond to get this grant.

Needs don’t go away; they only become worse and more costly. Let’s not shortchange our students or our community. Vote “yes.”

Bootsie Lauridsen

Baldwin City

To the editor:

For the past several weeks this editorial page has been filled with letters offering numerous excellent reasons to vote yes for the bond issue proposal on the ballot Nov. 4. School district patrons and my fellow school board members have shared with Baldwin City Signal readers their concerns and hopes for our district. I would join my voice to theirs and here is just a short list of reasons why.

Currently the state of Kansas will be paying 27 percent of the total cost of the bond; that is 27 percent local taxpayers will not have to pay for these improvements in our community. This option may well be eliminated by the State Legislature in the upcoming session beginning in January. State revenue collections are going down. Cuts will be made somewhere and education funding is always a target. In addition, interest rates are at historic lows. If we lock in a low rate now, taxpayers will be spending fewer dollars over the 20-year life of this bond; the estimated savings may be as much as $1 million over the life of the loan. Also, due to the recent tornado disasters in our state, 12 percent of the FEMA grant money provided is currently available to Kansans to build "safe rooms" in our schools. We can apply for these dollars and make the proposed Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center and performing arts center safer for our students, which I'm sure we all agree is a no-brainer. And last, but most important of all, the children of our community deserve our utmost energies to provide them with excellent educational opportunities.

The proposed bond issue project, when passed, will be a great effort toward the continual improvement of opportunities for our students that USD 348 patrons have always voted in favor of. Vote "yes" for the good of our children.They are our future.

Alison Bauer

USD 348 School Board President

To the editor:

The American Legion Auxiliary Unit 228 would like to give all those that donated pies to us for the Maple Leaf Festival a big thank you. Your generosity is truly appreciated.

Alice Randel

Auxiliary president

To the editor:

Over the past several weeks, many patrons and school board members have eloquently outlined the reasons why we need to pass the bond issue for our schools on Nov. 4. As an active school board member, I am aware of the pressing needs and challenges facing our schools. I voted “yes” to propose the bond issue, and I will vote “yes” on Nov. 4 because these needs will not disappear even if this bond issue does.

As a businessperson in the construction industry, I am also acutely aware of the economic challenges we are all experiencing. However, it is precisely because of the unprecedented low interest rates, the ever-increasing costs of materials and the availability of competitive bidding that makes this the best time to move forward. Additionally, the district can benefit from federal dollars through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. In short, federal tax dollars will pay for a portion of the construction of two “safe rooms” that are already a part of our proposed plan. Everyone in our community will benefit. I will vote “yes” on Nov. 4 because the bond is fiscally prudent.

As a fellow Baldwin community member, we are on the cusp of either voting to improve our future, or continuing down a path of inadequacy and complacency.To think only in the short-term is to lose sight of the future of Baldwin City. Please join me and vote “yes” on Nov. 4, because “it’s what’s best for kids” and our community.

Ruth Barkley

School Board Member

To the Editor:

Bad Plan - Bad Time!

Last Thursday evening, I took up the school board’s offer of a tour of the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center to help me better understand the upcoming bond issue. I was amazed to find myself the only patron on the tour. Board Member Ande Parks was my guide for the next hour and I want to thank him for his time and dedication to our school system. I have been in the primary center many times, having started kindergarten in 1956 when it opened up; my three kids attending there; and working there for five years. It really hasn’t changed or been upgraded much in those years, but you first notice the bright visuals the teachers have all around for the kids. Decorated rooms of very dedicated teachers are warm and welcoming. Then you notice the single pane windows, chipping ceiling tiles, extension cords and lots of stuff — for lack of storage, I assume. Concerned about the mold problem being talked about so much, we (Parks and I) concluded it occurred when the air conditioning was off during the summer, no air circulation and warm temperatures, and wet carpets. The health department has since determined the safety of the air and hopefully the maintenance issue and leaks have been solved. I served on a facility committee years ago when I worked for the district. At that time, replacement windows, electrical, plumbing and a new air conditioning and heating system was put on the priority list for the primary center — that was more than 15 years ago.

I agree, the primary center does need some much-needed attention.

When the new high school was built, a second phase of a new auditorium was proposed to be built on the north side of it so it would be next to the choir and band rooms and gym entrance. That was the original plan, so why would we join it to the junior high cafeteria? That makes a long walk for the band members and high school staff to move all the equipment to the performance area.

Same for the ball fields — why would we build fields at the intermediate center site when it’s the junior high and high school students who will be using them? Are we busing the athletes back and forth for practices and games?

I attended a few of the previous board meetings during the talk of a bond issue. Supt. Paul Dorathy asked the board to set deadlines so he could plan upcoming public meetings about the proposed bond. The architects and bond advisor both stood up and discouraged Supt. Dorathy from such meetings as all the “crazies” will come out in opposition of the bond. (I was one of those “crazies” sitting in the audience.)

I am discouraged that the board took their advice because they are not being truthful and upfront about this bond issue. It has only been mentioned in passing, but do you realize that the board plans to ask for another bond issue in 2011 for Phase II and III for a new junior high building at the intermediate site and then combining the high school and current junior high to make a high school campus (which would include the two auditoriums)? This will increase the district’s debt and our property tax for many more years. And please don’t give the line it will only cost me $5 a week or a cup of coffee. I went on the vote best.org Web site and they will calculate your tax increase. I encourage all of you to do this. My “no frills” home and small 10 acres of agriculture ground will increase my taxes more than $500 a year. I already pay more than $1,200 a year to the district, including $200 for the two outstanding bond issues now. Baldwin City businesses and farmers are going to get hit hard with this bond. Douglas County is raising taxes by 2 mills and the school district is already raising its by 1 mill for next year. The board made two wise decisions when hiring Supt. Dorathy, who I have a lot of respect for and their new financial manager who got the district back in good financial standing after others in the district “lost $300,000” two years ago. They have got the district back on track with the maintenance and most of what I saw at the primary center and the junior high roof is just that — major maintenance upgrades.

In this stagnant economy and current recession, this is a very bad time to raise anyone’s taxes. More unemployment is to be expected and health care prices, gas, utilities and food increases are a worry to all. People buying homes look at how much property taxes and utilities are when they are moving. Baldwin is pricing itself out of the market. The board should have listened to the community survey results published on Dec. 13, 2007. New buildings were not favored and no one wanted their taxes increased.

I love my community and have always supported our schools but the board needs to a get a better plan.

Bad Plan during a Bad Time. Vote “no” to the school bond issue.

Gretchen Brumm

Baldwin City

Comments

Bloggerboo 5 years, 11 months ago

What's your plan then Gretchen? I was at those meetings, too, and I believe all conversation and discussion was welcome. Do you not believe we seriously need to fix the junior high and the primary center? Where do you propose we get that money?

Also, the $5 a week mantra is a not a lie, it is an average. I am sorry you will have to pay closer to $10 a week. My goodness, that will really put you out, won't it? Well, better to put the kids in a poor situation than to ask you to pay $10 a week to support children and education?

Since we already pay taxes as someone above you noted, why shouldn't get some relief from the state? I guess you all are happy paying for everyone else's bond issues while we get nothing here in Baldwin. The close-mindedness of this is unreal. Wake up folks! We're paying for everyone else to have nice, new facilities! Heaven forbid we put forth a pittance every week to get something nice and decent, (which we absolutely need, too) in return.

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TobyEbel 5 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Kerwin,

I appreciate your concern about the well-being of the schools in Vinland and Marion Springs. I sat on the facilities committee that addressed these issues that you mention. We had discussion on this topic over the course of a few weeks, then we learned from the architects and the demographer what the costs/savings would be if we closed these buildings. The group as a whole decided the savings wasn't enough. We moved on, examining the other big needs in the district. The two biggest were the primary center and junior high and their need for major repairs. The estimated cost of repairing the primary center alone was close, if not more than, 75% of the cost of a new building.

We decided to move in that direction when we considered all of the other problems facing the primary center. Educational space, storage space, parking space, room for the pre-kindergarten programs, and other problems all pointed to a new building when weighed against the cost of just getting the basic repairs done.

To make a long story short and answer your concerns, the new building, as proposed, will not be large enough to handle all of the students that currently occupy BESPC, Marion Springs, Vinland, and the pre-kindergarten students. So, you can rest assured that the this bond and building will not manifest the closing of the outlying schools. In fact, they do just the opposite. With the BESIC and a new PC, we'll have just enough room for Baldwin City kids, so we won't have the option of closing the other schools. Therefore, this bond passing is a kind of agreement to keep them open.

However, having said that, it is ridiculous to ask a Board of Education for any kind of written or verbal agreement when it comes to how it should act and the decisions they have to make. They have to do what's best for the district, the entire district, and that could mean closing schools. No one can predict what our situation will be like 5 years from now, nor even who will be holding these Board positions.

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sparky 5 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Ebel,

In a nutshell, we have heard in the past that we are in this mess because the citizens before us did not have the foresight to plan for the future growth (I know this is not the only problem, but one that has been mentioned) because they did not build the previous buildings large enough for expansion. So are we going down the exact same road with this plan? Every where I turn, I hear people talk about growth, growth, growth. Now your telling me this new plan won't accomodate a few more students? Something doesn't quite add up in my opinion.

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TobyEbel 5 years, 11 months ago

Hi Sparky,

This is a fair concern, and one I myself had early on. However, all of the data from the demographer showed us that Baldwin will not experience significant growth over the next five years, and not likely over the next 10 years. I was dismayed as well, especially considering the intermodal going in in Gardner. But, I was assured by them that their data models are accurate to 98% for the first 5 years, and to 90% over 10 years.

So, based on that professional opinion, and the financial limitations involved, the district chose a building of this size...I think 480 students or so.

One other thing to note. A few people have mentioned erroneously that voting yes for this bond somehow locks us into voting for future bonds at set times in the future. This is not the case. However, it is true that the district has a long-term plan, and I think that is a good thing. This plan calls for future construction/renovation as the need arises. One of the triggers for that might be growth, but if that doesn't happen, then new construction may not be needed right away. However, we must all realize that at some point buildings deteriorate to the point where they are no longer usable, or are too costly to maintain. That might be another trigger. Ultimately though, it comes down to what the district board members, superintendent, administrators, parents/teacher/students think is in the best interest of our children's education. Regardless, I have not been told of any set plans for future bonds, and I have spoken with Mr. Dorathy and at least 4 of the board members about these issues.

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andeparks 5 years, 11 months ago

I just wanted to check in and thank my friend Toby for correcting some misconceptions from the letters. Toby said it very well, but I’ll reiterate: this bond is a commitment to the country schools, we thought long and hard about renovating the Primary Center before deciding it wasn't the way to go and, while we do have a long range plan, we have no plans to propose the next phase of our plan on any given timetable. I'm disappointed that Gretchen believes there is a specific timetable in mind, because I spoke to her about that very issue, and I feel I didn't do my job well enough as I tried to explain that fact.

While I'm here, I would like to address one other rumor I've heard around town. If we pass the bond next Tuesday, we will be able to lock in historically low interest rates on our twenty year bond. Once locked in, that rate will not change. It cannot change unless we decide to refinance the bond, something we would clearly only do if it resulted in a savings for the district.

Sincerely, Ande Parks Board Member- USD #348 549-3292

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Torch 5 years, 11 months ago

"It seems to me that one of the critical issues that should be considered would be whether there is a written or verbal guarantee that schools at Marion Springs and at Vinland would remain open, not only now, but in the foreseeable future."

Um...NO. Marion Springs should be closed for sure no matter what the outcome of the bond issue.

I've made my position clear on the bond issue in other threads so I won't restate it other than to say it's not time to do this.

However, I would like to respond to Biggerboo to ensure he/she understands the fallacy of the argument of 'won't you pay $10 a week for our poor children'.

The problem, Biggerboo, is that it's not about the $10 for the poor children. It's about the other $4,000 a month in taxes I'm already paying. You know how I got there? By having people like you saying 'it's only $10 a week'.

This is the same technique that siding salesmen use to get you to bite. You tell me 'For the cost of a Big Mac a week we can save the world!' The trouble is I'm already buying 1,000 Big Macs a week.

You are not in a position to criticize anyone who doesn't want to spend more - no matter how much it is. Unless you're willing to pay that $10 for everyone who is against it (then you might see how quickly that adds up) then I suggest you stay away from telling us how to spend our money.

Let's turn it around a bit - If there are 1,000 households in Baldwin paying $10 a week that's $10,000 a week or $520,000 a year that is coming out of our local economy. That's money that won't be spent on goods and services. Over 10 years that's $5,200,000 of lost income.

Be careful about the arguments you raise...they can easily be turned around on you.

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Bloggerboo 5 years, 11 months ago

Torch, I have heard you criticize this district hard where it occasionally falls short of your ideals. But, I didn't see you stepping in to coach, or teach, or lead the music and arts programs you so dearly love to criticize. Therefore, I claim just as much right as you to criticize whomever whenever I want. And damn right I criticize anyone who would put $10 a month ahead of students and education.

Of course your math is correct. But that only tells one side of the story. Anytime there is new construction, there is a new influx of money for various reasons. That will help offset some of this money initially. Moving forward, as other families visit Baldwin for various reasons (Maple Leaf, sporting events like us hosting tournaments, etc.) and decide to move here, not only is the tax base widened, but those families spend their money here, thereby offsetting some of the missing funds that went to the bond. It may never equal out to a full and complete trade-off, but we are buying something here. Something of value. Educational facilities, technology and security benefits, arts and athletic facilities. They are needed and they are not free...but they are cheap right now. Vote Yes!

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andeparks 5 years, 11 months ago

For the record, our architect tells us we can expect about 5% of the bond cost to be spent in our local economy. So, this bond would bring about a million dollars into Baldwin. That is just money directly associated with the construction: gas, meals, lodging, goods, etc. The estimate is that, once spent here, those dollars get re-spent in town about seven times.

Given the fact that we would be locking in low rates now, not paying any tax on the bond until a year from now, providing work for our local contractors, and bringing an infusion of cash into town during construction, I believe there are a lot of benefits to acting now.

Ande

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