Council Mulls Task Force Report

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Thursday June 18, 2015

After the joint City/School Master Planning and Visioning Task Force presented their recommendations to the steering committee on June 3, school board and city council members delved into the 100 page report. The council began their discussion of the report at their June 15 meeting. Task force chair Art Klugo was present to clarify questions, take notes, and help identify any gaps in information prior to the next steering committee meeting July 8.

The 13 member Master Planning and Visioning Task Force began their work in November of 2014. Over the course of 8 months, and with the assistance of a consultant team, they evaluated volumes of information to determine possible school configurations to recommend for the future. The task force presented two school configuration options to the steering committee June 3: both involved moving from the city’s three existing elementary schools to two (either one consolidated K-4 school, or two elementary schools, one K-2 and the other 3-5). What wasn’t decided by the task force, since it wasn’t under their purview, was to determine the future of Marcotte Central School, although both recommended options involved either selling or re-purposing the school. This is a decision that will be made by the school board and ultimately, the voters.

The June 15 council agenda item provided an opportunity for members to pose questions about items in the report. Councilor Riehle wondered what the phrase 21st century learning actually meant. “What are we building for when we don’t know what our needs will be in 40 years?” Riehle asked. She also outlined budget concerns and suggested it would be prudent to start planning how the council wants to address some of the issues in the report such as bonded indebtedness.

Pat Nowak, council chair, agreed that the financial piece is critical. “Looking at city decisions that need to be made and school decisions that need to be is up to the school to decide what to do, but we need to move ahead with Market Street and the TIF.”

The council also expressed concern over public engagement with the master planning process. Nowak said that she thought the community meeting where “The Big Deal” cards were played was perhaps, not as productive as it could have been, because people didn’t know a lot about City Center. She suggested a survey would be appropriate and perhaps another community meeting. Chris Shaw concurred. ”An investment in a good, firm, survey would serve us in good stead and will help guide us going forward.”

The question about the Central School property also came up. Riehle suggested that the council have a conversation to decide if selling that property is crucial for the City Center vision and for growth of potential businesses in the area. Dorn agreed and said he would help guide the conversation.

Dorn added, “If you look at all of the options the task force considered, to come down to an 8-3 vote, that is amazing and the body of work is remarkably consistent.”

As of June 15, two of the five councilors had read through the entire task force report, as well as the minority report, and the others will follow suit prior to the July 8 steering committee meeting, where more questions and feedback will be addressed.

SOURCE: Corey Burdiick, Correspondent