Board starts making plans for replacement of Roanoke school building

School children in Roanoke could be learning in a brand-new building as soon as two years, under a plan officials say will not raise taxes.

Meeting on Monday, Aug. 14, Huntington County Community School Corporation officials laid out a tentative timeline for construction of a new Roanoke elementary school building and repairs to Huntington North High School.

Superintendent Randy Harris said a meeting was held earlier in the day that included representatives from financial consultant firm Umbaugh & Associates, attorneys from the firm Ice Miller, architect Dana J. Wannemacher, school board member Brian Warpup and others to discuss bonding strategies for the plans and how they will be paid for.

The timeline was broken down into two parts: one, to establish a general obligation bond (GOB), and the second, to plan the steps necessary to build a new elementary school to replace the current, aging Roanoke structure.

“We’re going to see quite a bit of action required and needed from the board in the next three or four meetings when we get the process started,” Harris said. “There’s going to be resolutions, hearings, time for the public to express their support or their comments against going forward.”

The proposed timetable for lease financing is:

• Aug. 28 – A resolution will come before the board for action to begin the process to establish a general obligation bond.

• Aug. 31 – A legal notice will be advertised for two public hearings for the new Roanoke Elementary building timeline.

• Sept. 11 – First hearing.

• Sept. 25 – Second  hearing.

At that time, the school board may adopt a project resolution, a preliminary determination resolution and a reimbursement resolution.

• Sept. 25 – A hearing will be conducted to lay out the project and invite public comment.

“These are all part of the legal process that goes through to say, ‘Here’s why we want to borrow the money and here’s the steps we’re taking to borrow the money,’” Harris added.

• Sept. 29 – A special board meeting will be held to adopt a resolution determining the need for the project; adopt a resolution approving preliminary plans, form of lease and authorizing publication of notice of a lease hearing; and adopt a resolution to approve formation of a building corporation.

• Oct. 30 – Petitions to file a remonstrance against the project will be due.

• May 2018 – Groundbreaking planned for new Roanoke Elementary School.

• Summer 2018 – Renovations at Huntington North High School begin.

“The (Roanoke) building will probably be ready for occupancy by August 2019,” Harris announced. “Two years from today we could be looking at a new elementary school in Roanoke if all of this goes through.”

He said that the next phase of the long-term building rehabilitation project would not begin until around 2022, after the renovations at HNHS and work planned for Riverview Middle School is complete.

Warpup added the work at the high school would take three summers to finish, if the work was done only during summer break so as to not interrupt education.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Jon Bennett explained the long-range debt plan will see a couple of debts falling off at the end of this year.

The $5 million general obligation bond will replace the Crestview bond, which will be paid off. A general obligation bond that was taken on in 2014 will also be paid, he said.

“Property taxpayers in Huntington County would not see a raise in their property taxes,” Bennett added. “We have a long-range plan to keep that debt consistent.”

Harris echoed that statement, saying the corporation does not want to increase taxes to build and upgrade school buildings.

“These are definitely true needs that we have, to maintain our facilities,” he said. “We want to do it in a conservative, respectful manner to all the taxpayers going forward.”

In other business, the board:

• Approved the voluntary annexation into the City of Huntington of the school properties on Waterworks Road that include Horace Mann, Riverview Middle School and the property located behind the buildings. A request for annexation will now go to the Huntington Common Council for consideration and approval.

• A memorandum of understanding was approved unanimously with Huntington University to continue the ABLE Program, which assists special education students matriculating from high school to college. Harris said a grant has run out that funded the beginning of the program. The cost to HCCSC would run $12,210 per year to keep the program going.

• Lisa Powell-Sabinske, of Warren, was appointed by the board to serve as a trustee on the Warren Public Library.

• The next public work session meeting has been set for Monday, Aug. 21, at 6 p.m. at the Horace Mann Education Center. Board President Matt Roth said the board will discuss the decisions it has made and will make in the coming months and the timeline for construction of the new Roanoke school.