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School trustees take next step toward renovation

September 25, 2019
The proposed renovation and expansion of Crawford County High School that would allow middle school students to return got more clarity last Tuesday night as the Crawford County Community School Corp. Board of Trustees approved a resolution needed for financing should the project be approved.

The board, meeting at the administration building south of Marengo, voted 5-0 (trustees Dennis Talley and Larry Bye were absent) to amend an existing lease agreement and issue the first mortgage bonds.

By amending the current lease for an existing construction project, the school corporation will not have to form a new building corporation. The building corporation issues the bonds, with the school corporation, through the lease agreement, making the debt service payments on those bonds.

"It's a lot easier to do it this way than to form a whole new holding corporation and a whole new lease," said Damian Maggos of Raymond James Public Finance, the underwriter for the project's financing.

(The school board in June approved George K. Baum & Co. as the underwriter; however, the company shortly thereafter was sold. Maggos previously was the project representative at George K. Baum & Co.)

Mike Key, superintendent of the school corporation, assured the trustees that amending the lease agreement doesn't commit them to doing the project. Instead, he said, it allows the corporation to start the process and be ready should the project be approved.

Maggos said the school corporation can spend up to $5.57 million on the project. That is more than the $4.5 million previously noted as it includes $400,000 in gaming revenues the corporation receives from the Crawford County Council that the council has since agreed can be used to make needed security improvements as part of the project.

The amount that could be raised through the issuance of bonds is $5.17 million. Maggos said that amount isn't necessarily what the project will cost, only the total amount that could be financed. It is more than the $4.5 million because the county's assessed valuation has increased since the original number was floated, he said.

Regardless, Maggos said, the debt service rate will not increase, "and it may even decrease it a little bit."

Likewise, the maximum debt service levy, which, Maggos estimated would be $794,000, could be lower, as, in an effort to be conservative, he based it on a bond rate that likely is higher than what it will end up being.

Prior to Maggos' presentation, Larry Timperman of Kovert Hawkins architects talked about the design of the project. He noted that changes are being implemented based on conversations with school officials.

The renovation project calls for the middle school to move into what was the junior high wing of the high school. In 2016, the seventh and eighth grades joined the sixth grade in becoming Crawford County Middle School at the former Marengo Elementary School as part of the corporation's consolidation. The wing has mostly been used for storage for the past three years.

Grades 6 through 8 will be separated from grades 9 through 12, with the middle and high schools having their own entrances, office areas and cafeterias, Timperman said. The middle school portion of the project will entail mostly renovation of existing space, while the high school part will be a mix of renovation and new construction, including a cafeteria, he said.

"So, we've created this zone that will separate the middle school students from the high school students," Timperman said.

Regarding the need to move the middle school to the high school building after having moved the junior high school to the former Marengo Elementary School, Key, who was hired as superintendent in 2018, previously said the middle school is "busting at the seams" and wasn't designed for that age group. The building, he noted, has only two multi-user rest rooms, the hallways are too small for passing periods and the size of the cafeteria also is a problem.

While not part of this project, Timperman said designs have been drawn up for a future auxiliary gymnasium that also would include a weight room training facility and a performing arts area. He added that the school corporation is hopeful of paying for it largely through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as the gymnasium also would double as a severe weather safe room.

If the school board decides to move forward with the project, the corporation must conduct a 1028 public hearing regarding the financing.

In another matter, the board, recessing from the regular meeting, conducted a required public hearing on the proposed 2020 budget. Time was given for the public to comment on the 2020 budget, the 2020-22 Capital Projects Plan and the 2020-24 Bus Replacement Plan. There were no comments.

After reconvening the regular meeting, the board, in separate motions, voted 5-0 to approve resolutions adopting the Capital Projects and Bus Replacement plans.

The board also voted 5-0 to approve the following consent agenda items:

• The resignations of Samantha Sines from Title I and Shana Baxley as part-time custodian at West Crawford Elementary School.

• The following recommendations at CCHS from Principal Brandon Johnson: Cheyenne Culbertson, part-time custodian; Trish Carmickle, homebound instructor for a student; Jennifer Gowins, part-time cook; and Stephanie King, part-time cook.

• The following recommendations at CCMS from Principal Brandy Stroud: Sidney Morgan, dance coach; Megan Crawford, Booster Club sponsor; Alex Baker, eighth-grade boys' basketball coach; Noah Sturgeon, sixth-grade boys' basketball coach; and Melanie Embry, mild special education aide, retroactive to Aug. 1.

• South Crawford Elementary School Principal Amy Etienne's recommendation of Megan Crawford as both the dance team and cheer coaches at the school.

• The following recommendations at East Crawford Elementary School from Principal Tarra Carothers: Kaylee Gildersleeve, Title I aide, and Carolyn Pitman, girls' B-team basketball coach and physical education substitute position for five days a week up to 15 hours a week with a $14.30 pay rate.

• The following bus addendums as recommended by Assistant Superintendent Jamie Smith: Delanie King, 9.8 miles; Lou Ann Walton, 6.8 miles and 12.2 miles (one due to the closure of a county bridge with the other due to the new state law requiring curbside pick-up/drop-off along a state highway); John McDaniel, two miles; and Melanie Holden, 11 miles.

The school board's next regular meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at the administration building. A closed executive session will be at 6.

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