Two weeks after approving continued work on plans for a new competition gym, the Anamosa school board voted to approve language for a petition to put the bond measure on the ballot in the fall.

The preliminary plans for a new competition gym propose an extension off the north side of the existing high school and include a new weight room, four locker rooms, restrooms, classroom space, new concession stand, bowl-style seating arrangement with a capacity for about 1,850 people and a 168-meter running track around the bowl. A new parking lot would also be created out on the practice field.

The current cost estimate discussed April 4 was $22 million, but the district has the capacity to spend as much as a $29 million on the project. The funding sources laid out April 4 and in the petition language would see the project funded through a mix of a general obligation bonds, not to exceed $15,700,000, with other funding provided through the district’s Secure an Advanced Vision for Education fund. The latter uses local option sales tax for infrastructure purposes. The project would keep the district levy rate fairly stable.

Concerning funding, board member Carl Chalstrom wondered if something needed to be mentioned about donations. Board and facilities committee Matt McQuillen said the numbers presented to date have been with the assumption that the district pays for it without any public donations. While there are plans for a capital campaign ahead of a vote to show community buy in and a potential to buy down the project, they didn’t want the project to be contingent on raising a certain amount.

Another question raised concerned whether knowing if the election would be a special one in September or with the general election in November was necessary before approving the petition language. Superintendent Larry Hunt said he thought the board could still go with either.

“It needs to be relatively soon, but I don’t think it necessarily needs to be made tonight,” he said.

Board member Carl Chalstrom said there were “advantages and disadvantages” to either running the vote as a standalone in September, which usually has a lower turnout, or during the general election, where the turnout would be higher. In discussion with Sheila Tjaden, who was on Monticello’s “Vote Yes” committee for their September 2018 special election to approve their new middle school, McQuillen said September could present some issues with volunteers, as volunteers on boards like that usually aren’t as active during the summer. McQuillen said he’d like to get more feedback from the architects on which date would work better.

OPN Architects will help provide promotional materials on the project and the plan is to get posters and materials out at school activities later this spring to assist in marketing the project.

The board unanimously approved the petition, leaving the door open for either fall vote. In order to get on the ballot in either September or November, 281 signatures would be needed.

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