VUHS board ready to request smaller bond

VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School board met on Monday night and edged closer to adopting a new, more modest bond proposal to take care of what Addison Northwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Tom O’Brien called the most critical items that were included in two earlier defeated plans.
The new bond the VUHS board discussed on Monday, which O’Brien said on Tuesday would be “somewhere in the $2 million range,” will focus “on the roof and the cafeteria and kitchen primarily, with some smaller pieces in the auditorium.”
O’Brien said the board will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. on Thursday at the ANwSU offices on Green Street in Vergennes. There, members might well schedule a new bond vote to coincide with balloting in Vergennes for a new $1.45 million police station.
On Tuesday, the Vergennes City Council set that vote for May 14, and aldermen said they would welcome a vote on the same day and possibly even a joint public informational meeting on the two bonds.
The VUHS board mid-year in 2012 started looking at how to fund repairs to leaky roofing in several areas of the school, needed equipment replacement and other fixes in the school’s kitchen and cafeteria, and safety issues in the auditorium, including wiring and a slippery stage surface.
The board also decided to ask for funds to handle handicap access and performance improvements to the auditorium that included replacing all its seats, new air handling, improved storage, a new orchestra pit, new lighting and sound equipment, a reconfigured entrance, a raised control room and catwalks; to make improvements to parking lots, sidewalks and traffic flows; to put new bleachers in the middle school gym; and to install an artificial turf field to be surrounded by a track.
The price tag came to $6.5 million, and ANwSU residents said no on Election Day in November, 2,244-1,653.
Next, in early February the VUHS board proposed two bonds, one for $4.2 million that would take care of almost all the work inside and immediately around the school, and a second for $2 million for the athletic improvements. That second bond could have been approved only if the larger bond also received backing.
Again, voters said no, 820-671, to the $4.2 million plan, and 1,107-376 to the field and track.
Now, O’Brien said, the board wants to see what absolutely must get taken care of. 
“They’re trying to make sure that they focus on the must-dos,” he said.
The board on Monday talked about, and on this Thursday will also discuss further, creating a line item in the annual budget to help pay for future building needs, what O’Brien called on Tuesday a capital projects fund.
“They’re also going to be looking to make sure they have a more consistent course to look at taking care of the building than they have had,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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