Baldwin USD 348 board cool to new multi-use building
The USD 348 Board of Education special meeting Monday on district facilities ended on a to-be-continued note, but not before it became clear there is little support for constructing a center to house district offices, maintenance, a bus barn and other functions.
Prompting Monday’s meeting was a report the board received last month from district administrators, which makes recommendations on the future uses, on non-uses, of all district properties. Among its recommendations were:
• The district sell or donate Marion Springs and the Chapel Street complex of the old primary center, district office building and gym. Many of those buildings need repairs, and Superintendent Paul Dorathy said the biggest obstacle to selling the district office building was the need for an elevator to make it ADA compliant.
• Retaining Vinland Elementary for a variety of possible uses, including a wrestling and cheerleading practice facility or a home for the East Central Kansas Educational Cooperative.
• Trading one or two of the metal buildings on the south side of Chapel to Baker University for lease considerations at Liston Stadium.
• Building a multi-use center to house district administrative offices, maintenance, a bus barn and other programs or functions. It was proposed the building be paid for through a loan from the district’s capital outlay fund.
Dorathy explained Monday the recommendations were interwoven. The multi-use center was proposed as a home for functions and programs displaced from the sale of current properties.
Board members responded that the district needed to develop less-perfect options, noting there seemed to be little public support for a multi-use center.
Board member Nick Harris said a story in The Signal mentioning the administrators’ recommendation to build a multi-use center prompted more phone calls than any issue since he had been on the board. The board would face a backlash if it were built, he said.
Board member Sandy Chapman said the multi-use center was not something the district should consider for the next three to five years.
“It’s a good idea, but the timing is wrong,” she said. “The sentiment is as long as we have empty buildings, we need to use them until we get rid of them.”
Harris said he thought the issue before the board was what to do with the unused buildings. He and Board President Ande Parks supported selling Marion Springs Elementary School, trading the two metal buildings to Baker and keeping Vinland Elementary for future needs.
Harris and other board members said they did not support donating property.
Board members proposed a number of possible options to constructing a new building. Those included to possible re-use of the old junior high school auditorium as a home for wrestling and cheerleading practice and relocating maintenance to the front of the bus barn when the Parents and Teachers program moves next year to the primary center.
Several board members said the favored selling the former soccer field and current T-ball field on the east side of Sixth Street because they thought there would be a market for it. The administrators recommended the district keep the property for possible future uses because there was no expense associated with it.
The board will take up the issue again at its May 21 meeting.