Nearly three weeks after a successful night at the polls, Big Walnut Local School District leaders have initiated the process that will result in the construction of two buildings.
In the Nov. 7 election, voters approved a combined 6.6-mill bond issue and a 1.25-mill permanent-improvements levy.
The bond issue is expected to raise an estimated $108 million and will be paid back over 37 years. The money will be used to build a new high school and an additional elementary school, as well as to add upgrades to buildings.
After two Big Walnut school board meetings, President Andrew Wecker said the board is exploring contractor options and getting reacquainted with the process of construction.
"We have begun, I think, the design and construction process, at least in terms of getting up to speed with how things are done," he said. "The last time we built was in 2008. Since then, the state has modernized public-construction projects."
Wecker said Superintendent Angie Pollock has been meeting with the district's financial advisers, and the board has decided to hire a construction manager to handle contracts and the process as a whole.
"In terms of selecting who that would be, we haven't reached that point just yet," he said.
The district also has issued bonds for up to $10 million – to be paid back by the ballot-issue funds – in anticipation of the early expenses.
Now, the focus will shift to site selection and design for the two new buildings, leaders said.
Wecker called the site-selection strategy a "process of elimination" for 75 or 100 acres, depending on whether the two schools are on the same site or different plots.
He said Genoa and Harlem townships likely are too far south and too expensive, while options on the northern side of the district "may be affordable" but are "not central," and would bring utility challenges. He also said Trenton Township would be "a little challenging."
Wecker said that likely leaves Berkshire Township and the villages of Sunbury and Galena as legitimate options.
"We're going to look at everything," he said, "but at the end of the day, the restrictions we have to work with are going to narrow down the list for us."
The district will design the planned buildings while searching for a site. While very little has been finalized in that area, Wecker said the goal will be to design buildings that last as long as the 37-year bond issue.
In the meantime, he said, the district's goal will be to maintain the open communication that district leaders say contributed to the successful Election Day.
He said the district would continue to solicit the opinions of residents throughout the process of building both schools.
"We want to get as much community input as possible," Wecker said. "Just because there was an election on the bond issue and permanent-improvements levy, that doesn't mean we're going to stop the community process. We want to be sure we're on firm footing as we go forward, as far as public support is concerned."