Archive for Thursday, January 31, 2008

Board starts mulling fate of properties

January 31, 2008

The Eudora USD 491 Board of Education last Thursday night agreed the decisions on two of the city's most prime real estate will follow a decision on a new district office.

That consensus was developed during a special meeting to discuss what the district should do with the Nottingham Elementary School and the Community Learning Center properties.

"This is probably one of many, many meetings where we'll try to come up with a plan," Superintendent Marty Kobza said.

Kobza said the meeting went differently than expected because it was thought that each property was going to be discussed individually. However, the board soon came to the conclusion that resolving the future of those properties was dependent on a decision to build a district operations center.

He credited board member Mark Chrislip for verbalizing that idea.

"Mr. Chrislip really refocused things for everyone when he said that we were going about it backwards," Kobza said. "If, ultimately, our goal to accomplish is getting an operations center, how do we need to set everything up to get there?"

Board member Joe Pyle also made a good point that the district is in no hurry, Kobza said.

Civic duty

"It was a really good discussion to get everyone back on the same page and bring all that back to light again because now with the bond passed, we need to start thinking again about the properties we have," Kobza said.

The district now needs to decide, on a piece-by-piece basis, if each parcel of land should be used for a facility or a revenue source. In other words, should they sell the property or build on it.

Kobza said the board would be careful in its decision because it felt beholden unto the city and knew that both buildings sit on prime pieces of real estate.

"There's absolutely a duty there, which is to think very responsibly," he said. "If we can add to the overall tax base, if we can lessen the burden on the individual home owner from a tax standpoint by bringing in commercial properties, we have to really look at an opportunity to do that and help the city in its growth plan."

Kobza said the district also would like to house the Eudora Public Library and the Eudora Historical Society in a new operations center.

Making it work

The district's need for a operations center mirrors the problems that Eudora schools have. It, too, is just too small.

"We did some interviews yesterday, and anytime we have more than two people in a meeting, we have to meet near the front door in the reception area, which is not private," Kobza said. "If we have any kind of administrative-level meetings, we have to go out to the middle school or the high school and use one of their conference rooms.

Assistant Superintendent Don Grosdidier also mentioned during the meeting that the library in either the high school or the middle school has to be closed to students when they write curriculum because there's no space to get teachers together.

Privacy concerns also are huge because of situations that are sensitive but cannot always be handled in as private a manner as they wish.

"We deal with a lot of confidential materials, and the fact is that we just don't have the space to accommodate those kinds of meetings," Kobza said.

He also said when the district was half the size it is now, it was fine, but the technology department is at the high school and the food service department is at the middle school in spaces that weren't made for what they have to do.

"We're making it work" Kobza said. "As usual, our first priority is what is happening with the students in the classroom, but we're beginning to get into the realm where it's beginning to bleed over."

In other action, the board also discussed:

¢ The fate of the residence on the 47-acre Durr property, which was purchased Jan. 9 and where the $27 million elementary school will be built. The occupants must vacate the premises by Oct. 1 and the district must decide how they want to dispose of the buildings, which consist of a home, garage and shed, on that land.

They might sell the property via an auction or a single-bid process. In any case, the disposal must take place in an open session board meeting.

¢ A site manager for all construction that will occur as a result of bond issue.

"It's an overall quality assurance position that will make sure we've got someone else there to manage it, make sure it gets done on time and we're getting our money's worth at every step," Kobza said.

The site manager would be hired as an independent contractor and paid using money from the school bond. They would not be given benefits.

There also would be the option of keeping the individual on after all new construction has occurred because it would allow many staff members to do the job they were originally hired to do.

"Whether it's our finance person crossing over and overseeing HVAC functions or it's me trying to be a facilities manager and at the same time be a superintendent - if we add time and personnel there (for a site manager), it will allow us to not have to add personnel in other areas."

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