Measure B supporters say infrastructure needs upgrades; opponents say enrollment is falling
The asphalt by the B Wing of Nevada Union High School is cracked like a broken mirror, elongated fissures weaving through the parking lot.
There are more cracks near the center of the Ridge Road high school campus. Massive trees have roots extending under the sidewalks. They push up the concrete, creating trip hazards. One problem spot is highlighted orange.
Then there are the roofs, the gas leaks and the buildings that don’t comply with existing building codes.
“It’s a big campus,” said Paul Palmer, the district’s director of maintenance, operations and construction. “Any given day, something can get broken.”
Measure B, on the Nov. 8 ballot, would address these issues with up to a $47 million bond issuance repaid through higher property tax assessments. It requires 55 percent of the vote to pass.
School district homeowners would see an additional $15 to $19 property tax assessment for each $100,000 of a home’s assessed value.
Supporters of the measure, the only local initiative to garner formal opposition, say the repairs and upgrades are essential to fix a failing infrastructure throughout the district’s schools. Opponents argue the repairs aren’t needed because of a reduced student body and the perception that the Nevada Joint Union High School District will shutter one of its schools in a few years.
“Are the kids safe? Yes,” Palmer said. “But we’re constantly working to keep it that way.”
Wade Freedle, the author of formal arguments against Measure B, toured Nevada Union High School this week with a handful of others. After the three-hour walking tour, Freedle said he’d support replacing the underground piping.
Freedle, however, noted he still intends to oppose the measure.
“As far as I’m concerned, the question is, is the school board, the administration, going to face up to the declining enrollment question?”
Opponents point to a graph in the district’s 2016-17 budget that shows enrollment falling under 2,500 in the next few years. Nevada Union’s capacity is 2,500.
Freedle said the district should close Bear River and have its students instead attend Nevada Union. He fears pouring millions of dollars into Bear River only to have it shuttered in a few years would be a waste of money.
Louise B. Johnson, the school district’s superintendent, has said it’s neither reasonable nor feasible to close a school, because of the county’s geography.
Opponents like Freedle also point to Facility Inspection Tools, reports that detail the condition of district buildings. Nevada Union in 2015 had an 89.06 percent, or good, rating. That same year Bear River High School had a 99.2 percent, or exemplary, rating.
Palmer gave the example of a house that has a 29-year-old roof with a lifespan of 30 years. He can continue to live in that house, but he must replace the roof next year.
“Some things are beyond their life cycle and need to be replaced, but we don’t move out of our house,” he added.
Measure B, if passed, would pay for improvements at Bear River, Nevada Union and Silver Springs high schools, as well as the McCourtney Road Adult Center.
The district would first tackle what Johnson called health and safety projects — roofs and underground piping.
Bear River has some $678,000 in roof projects and just over $1 million in underground HVAC piping. There are also the estimated costs of replacing a fully automated fire alarm system ($955,823), bathroom renovations ($947,938) and the renovation of a kitchen ($1.1 million), among several other projects.
Nevada Union has gas and utility line costs of more than $1.5 million and new roof costs of more than $2 million.
Nevada Union also has new parking lot asphalt overlays ($712,735), the replacement of existing lighting ($288,658) and interior renovations at the pool shower building ($1.6 million), in addition to many others.
Touring the facility, Palmer noted that many buildings and fixtures date from the 1960s. Nevada Union had two gas leaks over the past year.
“And again, it was a 1960s pipe,” he said.
Accessibility is another issue. There are ramps throughout the campus, though some of them require several switchbacks. Some water fountains are activated by a foot bar, which someone in a wheelchair can’t use.
Nevada Union’s football stadium needs disabled access as well.
The district would prioritize the projects if Measure B passes, though staff already know that roofs and piping are at the top of the list.
Johnson said those projects must occur regardless of the measure’s outcome. If it fails, money would come out of the district’s general fund.
That would mean some programs get cut. Johnson said she couldn’t speculate on which ones would end.
“It’s all about the kids for me,” said Katy Schwarz, district board president, who supports Measure B. “It’s healthy for our community.”
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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