Licking County News

Southwest Licking likely back on the ballot this fall

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In a special meeting June 12, Southwest Licking school board members agreed to consider a resolution of intent to put a funding issue on the November ballot, at their regular meeting set for Thursday evening, June 19.

What exactly the intent would be will be announced June 19.

Board members said June 12 they were back to square one with any building renovation plans following the May 6 defeat of the district's 6.1-mill, 37-year bond issue, which would have raised more than $66.5 million for a $109 million facility construction and renovation project.

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission would have contributed $42.5 million.

Board members agreed the need for new and renovated facilities still exists, but the school district must maintain its current programs and an operating levy soon will be necessary.

Board members said they will announce June 19 if they intend to place an operating levy on the ballot or go with a reduced bond issue in an attempt to get the ball rolling on a new renovation plan.

The deadline to file with the board of elections for the November ballot is 4 p.m. Aug. 6 -- 90 days before the election.

Although there is no new renovation plan in place, Superintendent Robert Jennell said, it would be at least four or five years before any construction could take place because Southwest Licking now must pass a bond issue first before it can return to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for funding.

Per the Ohio Revised Code, districts that do not meet the original 13-month timeline cannot reapply to the OFCC until their local share of the money is secured, Jennell said previously.

Jennell said coming up with a new plan and returning to the ballot before the state can provide any additional funding would be a long process.

"I think we're back to the drawing board," said board President Don Huber.

Huber said voters obviously were not ready to back the district's previous construction and renovation plan, so it's time to "bring back the planners" and state officials to come up with a new plan to deal with the district's building issues.

"We may end up exactly where we were," Huber said. "We've been through this process. We need to look at everything."

Huber is certain, though, that he would like to see at least part of the administration building vacated as soon as possible.

"My goal is to be out of (this building) in a year," he said.

Huber said the administration building is technically safe, but deteriorating.

"I don't want to call it safe from what I would call safe," he said.

"It's not OK when the rain comes inside," said board Vice President Debra Moore.

Moore said the eastern wing of the building, where the preschool is held, is in better shape than the west end, where the administrative offices are.

"The walls are bowed," she said, "and rain just leaks in. It's freezing in the winter because there's no insulation. It's pretty bad."

Huber said engineers have reported the building is not worth repairing west of the gymnasium.

"The gym (going toward) east is another matter," he said.

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