School bond vote successful after a 'tense' night for supporters.
Every vote does count.
While cliche, that phrase rang true for residents of Alta on Tuesday night, as the new $3.4 million school bond issue unofficially won approval from voters by 0.45 percent - or a margin of just four votes out of the 961 ballots cast.
The bond issue, which will help construct a new addition to the elementary school on the south side of town, needed a 60 percent "supermajority" to pass, and the measure was approved by 60.45 percent of registered constituents (581 votes) and was rejected by 39.55 percent (380 votes).
Of eight absentee and challenged votes yet to be counted, only four are expected to qualify after the canvass Monday, and even if all four were "no" votes, the bond issue would still pass by the barest fraction of a percentage, according to Commissioner of Elections Karen Strawn.
The measure saw fairly high voter turnout for a school- related issue, as 49.2 percent of the 1,952 registered voters cast ballots in the event.
Alta Superintendent Fred Maharry said supporters knew the vote would be close, and were extremely appreciative of the support they received from members of the community.
"(Tuesday) night was very tense," Maharry said. "We were cautiously optimistic throughout the last few weeks about our chances, and then last night we realized it was really going to be nip and tuck. I thought it was going to be extremely close, and it truly was. We're extremely humbled and very grateful to the community for their support on this, and we're very pleased with the outcome."
"We're very, very happy right now," Facilities Committee member Paula Radke said. "We're happy the community has supported this, and we're thrilled that these students are going to be able to get new classrooms that they need. It was extremely close, but we couldn't be happier with how it turned out."
The new bond issue will allow the school district to construct a new 35,000 square foot addition south of the elementary school which will provide new classrooms for preschool through eighth grade students, additional restrooms, a new library, an up-to-date computer lab and gym space for physical education, music, athletics, drill team and other activities.
The gym is also one of three areas which will be designed for community use, as it will be open for Alta patrons to use from 6:00 to 8:20 a.m. and after 6 p.m. The computer lab will be open for public use from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the library will be available for members of the public to use from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Jim Black, a member of the Alta Facilities Committee, said the proposal would be a positive for both Alta students and citizens in years to come.
"I really think this will be very beneficial for the students here in town," Black said. "The classrooms are extremely important, and the multipurpose facility that will be built will be good for everyone in the town. Students and members of the public will be able to use it, and everyone will also be able to use the computer lab and library. It's going to be a positive for everyone here in town."
Maharry said the efforts put forth by the large number of supporters was the biggest key to victory in the school bond vote.
"We had a tremendous amount of people who believed in this and pushed for this and worked incredibly hard on this," Maharry said. "That's truly the reason why we won. We had so many people who invested a lot of their time into this, and their efforts were why the bond issue passed. Without them, it wouldn't have been possible."
Supporters also said the wide range of people who worked on the project made a big difference in the end, as a variety of people could answer the different queries of the public, rather than seeing all of the questions funneled down to only a few people.
"I think one of the reasons we were successful was that we had a larger committee this time," Alta School Board President Wes Holmes said. "The Facilities Committee was drawn from a larger group that included some which were opposed last time, and we were able to get their view on everything and see what we needed to do to make this successful. That was a big key to this."
Maharry said that integration of people from throughout the community will continue in the future, as he said supporters of the bond issue would seek as much input as possible from those who opposed the proposition throughout the coming phases of the project.
"We want as much community involvement with this as we can," Maharry said. "We know there was some opposition to this, and we want to work with those who opposed this and resolve all of our differences now and make the best project possible.
"This is an inclusive process, and we want everyone in the Alta school district to come together and help make a plan that is best for our kids, because the kids are really what this is all about."