District anticipates decision
If the Washington City Council does not approve an additional $35,000 to build an auditorium onto the Washington High School, Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen said that he hopes the project will not end.
Still, he said, there is a very real possibility of that happening. He is concerned the district may forfeit $3.6 million worth of grants if the Vision Iowa grant is denied. With the district hitting a snag that a $1.4 million grant from Vision Iowa is contingent on the city’s contribution being $50,000 instead of the approved $15,000 and the requirement of a 28E agreement with the city, Jorgensen said that he is hopeful the project — for which the first bond issue in 50 years was approved — can continue.
“I would hate to see us lose $1.4 million over $35,000,” he said.
Auditorium committee co-chair Jan Gallagher said she does not believe the district would lose the bond issue if the Vision Iowa grant is declined. According to the election results on the Washington County Auditor’s Web site, the wording on the ballot was “Shall the Board of Directors of the Washington School District in the counties of Washington and Jefferson, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $1,100,000 to provide funds to construct, build, furnish and equip an auditorium.”
The Washington City Council is scheduled to discuss the agreement and the additional contribution during its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. today in the former Washington Library.
If the Vision Iowa grant is approved, Gallagher said, it would be based on a total budget of $7.35 million. She said that the auditorium committee would still have to collect about $150,000.
Gallagher said that in discussions with the Vision Iowa board, she felt they had “scolded us for not asking for more.” She also said many of the questions regarded why the city was only asked for $15,000 when the state, through the Vision Iowa Board, was asked for $1.4 million.
“They said that they wanted to see more city support,” Gallagher said. “We had plenty of support from the community and from businesses, but I guess that doesn’t count for this.”
Jorgensen said that he believes it is typical for Vision Iowa grant applicants to have to negotiate the terms of the grant. During an interview Monday, city administrator Brent Hinson said that the requests were a “curve ball” that no one saw coming. Jorgensen said that the 28E agreement between the city and school district was because of additional traffic and revenue that is projected to come into the city as a result of the auditorium.
The 28E agreement, which was approved by the Washington School Board in its consent agenda last Wednesday without discussion, would give the city authority to schedule some city events at the auditorium without the charge. The city would also have say in planning of events.
Jorgensen said that the 28E agreement was in the consent agenda, which is normally for items that are standard housekeeping items and do not require much discussion, is because the 28E agreements are common between the school and city.
“It is really more of a decision point for the city than us,” he said. “The school and the city have a lot of collaboration.”
He said if the city declines to grant the additional money, the district would probably not get the Vision Iowa grant. If the 28E and the additional money are approved, members of the auditorium committee will meet with the Vision Iowa board again during the second weekend in June. Jorgensen said if the grant is approved, he hopes construction could begin yet this fall.
Hinson said in a previous interview that the $15,000 that the city had donated was going to be paid in $5,000 increments over the next three years with proceeds from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation. He said that if the council approves the new amount, it would be paid in $10,000 increments over the next five years. He said that the money would remain Riverboat funds and it would not be taxpayer money.