Architect, construction manager among those answering questions from community members at a Monday night meeting.
Members of the public were able to quiz advocates of the proposed Alta school bond issue in a large forum for the first time at a community-wide meeting Monday night, and supporters felt the event achieved its goal of fully informing citizens about the planned school addition.
The event, which took place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Alta Elementary Multipurpose Room (gymnasium), was filled with people eager to ask questions to Alta Superintendent Fred Maharry and various school board and Facilities Study Committee members about all topics relating to the bond issue, ranging from the number of parking spaces to the color of brick the building would have.
Supporters were unsure prior to the forum how the evening would go, but Maharry said he felt the assembly was successful for both the proponents of the bond issue and the community as a whole.
"I was very satisfied with how the meeting went," Maharry said. "I think we were able to answer everyone's questions and that was extremely important. We really wanted to give everyone as much information about this as possible, and I think we were able to do that."
"I thought the meeting was very good," school board President Wes Holmes said. "I felt it was very positive, and people were able to learn a lot. That's the biggest thing we wanted to accomplish from this meeting. We want people to be completely informed about this so they don't have any unanswered questions about it when they go to the polls."
While Maharry answered numerous questions for audience members, a large amount of queries were also handled by a trio of experts who attended the meeting to offer their expertise on the areas of architecture, construction and finances.
Don Snedden of Savage Ver Ploeg Architects, Shane Madison of Septagon Construction Management and Matt Leske of U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray Financial Consulting were all questioned by the audience, and helped provide information pertaining to specific questions regarding the design, construction process and financial matters.
Holmes said the presence of the three men was a great asset to those who led the meeting because they provided a wealth of knowledge about each of their respective fields that most on the school board and Facilities Committee simply did not have.
"I think it helped tremendously that we had the experts here who could answer the questions that people had instead of just us," Holmes said. "That made a huge difference, because we didn't have to guess at the answers about the specifics of how the construction management would go or anything like that. We had the experts here who could tell people precisely how everything would work, and that was very good."
The meeting began with Snedden, who reviewed the design of the new addition with the crowd and told the audience that the plan would meet the educational, aesthetic and financial needs of the community.
"We feel we have a plan that is exactly what the Facilities Committee is looking for and is within budget," Snedden said. "I can't be specific on what each of the rooms are precisely going to look like, because we haven't gathered all of the materials. We're not at that stage yet. But, what we have done is put together a basic plan that fits within the desired square footage and budget that we have had assigned to us."
Several of the questions dealt with financial matters, and many of those were answered by Leske, who told the audience the current economic climate is favorable for the construction of a project such as the proposed school addition.
"It's a great time to buy a car or a house right now, and it's also a great time to buy a school building," Leske said. "To be very honest, you're not going to get it cheaper than what you will right now."
Leske informed the public that the cost of the construction would be financed by several means, including property tax, income surtax, city funds and private contributions, and said the cost of the bond would be paid back over a 20-year period.
He also said the project would improve property values around the Alta area in the future.
"Your property values would increase with a new building," Leske said. "When other people see you have needed facilities for the district, property values tend to go up because the image of the community is better."
Leske also emphasized the economic impact that the numerous windmills located in the Alta Community School District will have in the future.
The towers began to have an impact on property taxes in Alta this fiscal year, and by 2003 taxes will be about $0.40 per $1,000 less than they would be if the towers were not around.
By fiscal year 2008, the estimated property tax reduction from the wind towers will be approximately $1.56 per $1,000, and Leske said they would bring in an estimated $30 million in assessed valuation to Alta.
Speakers also answered questions about the proposed gymnasium, as some in the crowd expressed concerns over the size of the facility.
The new gym would have a set of bleachers on one side which could seat 375 people with 24-inch seats and 485 with 18-inch seats, and identical rows of bleachers could be installed on the opposite side of the gym in the future, bringing the total maximum seating capacity to 750 people with 24-inch seats and 970 with 18-inch seats.
Maharry stressed the new gym would not just host athletic events, but would be home to a wide variety of activities.
"Please keep in mind that this gym is really a large classroom," Maharry said. "We have physical education classes in there. We have dance classes in there. We have schoolwide events in there. We want to make that classroom the best and safest classroom we can, and the multipurpose room we have right now falls short of that."
Holmes said the straightforward nature of the meeting was beneficial to everyone who attended, and was glad a large number of people showed up to hear the speakers give their reports on the proposed project.
"We just wanted to give people the facts," Holmes said. "We didn't want this meeting to be an arm-twisting session to tell people how to vote, but we also didn't want people to go to the polls and cast their vote based on fears or rumors. We just wanted to give the facts and let people make up their own mind based on those facts."