Once again there was no opposition, only praise, for the potential Washington Community Schools building project during the final public hearing Monday night in the high school auditorium.
The project, which would place a new middle school that would house grades five through eight on the 99-acre property the corporation is purchasing new Griffith Elementary, now moves one step closer to reality after the school board approved a series of resolutions at the conclusion of the public hearing.
“We have four months until Election Day,” said Washington Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Roach. “As of tomorrow, we will send out a notice in school messenger and a notice to families and employees that we need assistance. We passed the resolutions, but that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t follow state statute.”
Part of that state statute requires the corporation to obtain signatures for 5% of registered voters in the Washington Community Schools district or 500 signatures in support of putting the referendum question on the November ballot.
Petitions to collect those signatures, Roach said, will be available at the corporation office, Griffith Elementary and the junior high, beginning Wednesday morning at 8:30. The corporation office will remain open til 3:30 p.m., and the schools will be open until 6 p.m. for voters to come sign.
“Due to time constraints, we need to have this done in four days,” said Roach, who said he would really like to have the necessary signatures by Thursday, and if voters can’t make it to one of the locations, people will be on hand to take the petitions to voters or help people register to vote.
School board president Steve Frette said the signatures are just the start of the project process.
“Without the signatures, it doesn’t even get on the ballot,” said Frette.
In addition to the school building, the $34 million proposed project also includes a multisport fieldhouse facility and football field but Hal Kovert, architect with Kovert Hawkins, stressed the designs and features are all just concepts.
“We are just trying to conceptualize it,” said Kovert, who addressed the way the two-story would be set up to keep fifth and sixth grades separate from the school’s older students with separate classroom areas and even separate cafeterias in addition to a 1,200 seat gymnasium.
Jeff Hammond, with Baker Tilley, the corporation’s financial advisors, said the corporation was looking at a tax rate of about 48 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
“The median home value here is $98,900,” said Hammond, who said a property tax calculator to help community members better calculate the impact the potential project project could have on their property is being developed and would soon be on the Washington Community Schools website. “On a $98,900 home, you would pay $154.78 annually.”
Several community members including Daviess County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Samantha Bobbitt, Washington resident Ty Madison and teacher Cody Chapman, spoke in support of the project.
“This is a positive thing for us in the community for many reasons,” said Bobbitt. “When new businesses think about coming in, they look at our schools and Main Street and if they aren’t up to par, they may not locate here. And if those businesses come here, it would be less taxes we would pay. Athletic tourism is also a big thing right now.”
Madison said although his children go to Barr-Reeve, he was still in support of the project.
“It’s a beautiful drawing,” said Madison, who said he felt it was part of his civic duty to help support the project that helps support the children of the community.
Chapman said the new building was key to attracting and retaining younger people in the community.
“We need this project or my demographic is going to leave. We need to make upgrades,” he said, adding he choose to come back to his hometown to teach but could easily find a teaching job elsewhere.
Those needing assistance in signing one of the petitions to get the referendum on the November ballot should contact the corporation office at 812-254-5536.