Price tag could be just under $60 million


ALMONT — What to include and how big should it be are two questions members of the Almont school board continue to grapple with as they put the finishing touches on a possible bond issue for voters to decide early next year.

The board met last Thursday evening for over five hours, going through spread sheets of three buildings line item by line item, hoping to give some direction to builders.

A bond issue, for various school improvements district wide, has been considered for many months and some board members are ready to move forward and give the public a chance to have a say on what to do and how big to make improvements.

While no specific amounts, or the length of any millage, has been agreed to, school officials appear to be on track to have the final tally coming in at just under $60 million.
“Academics and safety are our primary concerns,” Interim Superintendent Kim Vonhiltmayer told the board and audience members. “We need to be smart and specific with our needs and take our students up to 21st Century learning.”

In addition to that, the new district leader said the board had to address what she calls the “elephant in the room” better known as a potential fieldhouse, or learning and activity center.

Board members pointed out that a bond issue was being worked on late last year with former Supt. Bill Kalmar, that some say totaled nearly $70 million.

Members of the Almont school board met with a construction firm to hammer out details for a possible bond issue next year.

“We have been able to shave off almost 10 million dollars or more and offer more opportunities for our students,” explained board member Tim SaintOnge.

Board President Angela Edwards told the board, “we need to focus on our priorities. As well as, do we support athletic additions or not? We need to get these questions answered. Here it is September and we are still trying to figure this out. Extending this issue out, in my opinion, is not an option. We can’t be changing major things now. We need to move forward and take this to the public for a vote. Let them decide.”

Board member Susan Frederiksen took issue with many items on the detailed sheets, saying she has been told there is not a lot of support in the community for certain things, like a fieldhouse.

One of the big ticket items that all board members agreed on is replacing the 35-year old windows throughout the building along with removing and replacing the main entrance to the high school that comes with a price tag of $500,000, according to construction officials who were at the meeting.

Much debate was had over the fieldhouse– what it would contain, what it would look like, the cost of construction and operation.

Again, the board agreed the proposed 117,000 square foot building was not feasible.

By the end of the meeting, general consensus was somewhere around 85,000 square feet.

Construction officials at the meeting, after hearing the responses to line items, said it appeared the board had three options, all based on what size of fieldhouse that may be proposed.

The construction amounts ranged from a low of around $52.3 million up to $$64.9 million.

However, it was pointed out that Almont is not able to go over $61 million, so the question may have been answered by going with an approximate amount of around $57 million.

Board Vice-President Janaea Smith said she felt, “this is a great opportunity to do something positive for the district.”

She noted the district has lost many students to schools of choice, for various reasons and added, “why not try to give them something that would persuade them to stay and draw others to our district? We can’t keep losing students from our district.”

The board did not allow for any public input at the end of the meeting, only at the start where they were asked why they (board) wouldn’t allow the public to ask questions.

No one on the board gave a response to the question from the audience.

The board is expected to meet again on September 25 where it’s expected they will once again discuss the topic of a bond issue and indicated they could take action on the status of the current proposed bond issue.