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Middle School Plan: Full Speed Ahead

Board agrees to pursue bond issue and new building despite obstacles

School Board members agreed Tuesday night to move ahead with a plan to even though a consultant warned there could be game-changing obstacles ahead.

Craig Kertesz of Ruscilli Construction said the building, parking lot and athletic fields may not all fit on the 17-acre site the district owns near the high school.

He cautioned that the 4.91 acres of wetlands on the site could be costly to mitigate -- and take up to a year to win approvals.

And he said he doubts the district could get the new building open 2015, as hoped.

"I believe you're looking at the winter of 2016 before this building is done," Kertesz said.

But school board members unanimously said the district should nonetheless pursue the idea as aggressively as possible to get a bond issue -- it's currently estimated at $72 million -- on the November ballot.

"I want the ball to go forward. Keep it moving," board member Ruth Brickley said at a special work session Tuesday night.

"Press the pedal to the metal. I'm all for moving forward," agreed board member Jennifer Sinisgalli.

Board member Carl Naso and Ward 3 City Councilman Jim Carbone earlier this month pitched the idea of building a new middle school as a way to replace the aging Center and Albion schools and also save money by consolidating two buildings into one.

The plan, as proposed, also includes bringing sixth-graders into the middle school to allow one of the seven elementary schools to close.

The goal is to save enough money to offset the need for another operating levy in a few years.

The bond issue would replace another issue that is being paid off, so the average homeowner would only see his taxes increase about $12 a year.

"This has to happen now," Carbone said at Tuesday's work session. "There's a buzz in the community. There's energy. If we don't do this now, it's never going to happen."

Next step is to bring on a project manager who would agree to serve on a voluntary basis until the November vote.

The district also has to find at least $50,000 to handle the wetlands issues and bore for soil samples to see if the site is buildable.

But even if it isn't, "we have other options" for sites, Carbone said.

Board members said nothing is set in stone yet, although Naso said he believes consolidating schools is at the heart of the matter.

"This is a plan for consolidation because consolidation drives savings," he said.

The biggest challenge is the time frame -- the board only has until July 9 to put the bond issue on the November ballot and needs to have enough information to give voters solid facts when they head to the polls.

In addition to Kertesz, Roger Riachi, president of RFC Contracting, and Marc Bittinger of CBLH Design both attended the meeting to offer free advice to board members on how to proceed.

lyn April 18, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Your own consultant has doubts on this plan, but you, the board, still is pushing ahead with this grand idea. This is why the public is so unhappy with how our schools are run. Not only do they not listen to its own taxpayers, but they don't listen to their own consultants. Next, they will give the teachers a nicely wrapped contract as a gift since they managed to get the last levy approved.
lyn April 18, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Why is my comment from this morning not here?
lyn April 18, 2012 at 11:08 PM
So, now I see both comments are "pending approval"? Is this a new policy, or only for certain poster's comments?
Winston Smith April 19, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I propose we name the new school "The Overtaxed Citizens of Strongsville Memorial Middle School." Glad to here there's so much "energy" for raising taxes. I'll be there to vote "NO."
lyn April 19, 2012 at 10:49 PM
I'm not sure why my post from yesterday morning hasn't been allowed to be posted, so I'll copy it here, now: Your own consultant has doubts on this plan, but you, the board, still is pushing ahead with this grand idea. This is why the public is so unhappy with how our schools are run. Not only do they not listen to its own taxpayers, but they don't listen to their own consultants. Next, they will give the teachers a nicely wrapped contract as a gift since they managed to get the last levy approved.
Debbie Palmer April 19, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Lyn, we had a technical problem with comments. It was nothing personal! Your comments are always well thought out and insightful.
lyn April 23, 2012 at 10:56 AM
Debbie- Thanks for following up on this!

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