By Travis Smola
The Schoolcraft Facilities Study Committee recommended the school board move forward with putting the proposed $30-40 million bond project for a new elementary and middle school on the November ballot.
This recommendation led to discussion spearheaded by Treasurer Kathy Mastenbrook, who also serves as trustee on the Schoolcraft Village Council. Mastenbrook suggested adding an amendment to postpone construction if the long-proposed sewer infrastructure project gets going.
The sewer project has been long debated in Schoolcraft, but recent talks with Portage-based Wightman Associates seem to show the project gaining real momentum. Mastenbrook felt there is a real possibility the sewer project and bond project may be running parallel to one another. “I think environmentally and for public health reasons it would be a better fit for our community (to utilize the sewer for the school project),” Mastenbrook said.
Secretary Ryan Ledlow said he understands why Mastenbrook was sharing this information, but he wanted to know more on the timeline of a sewer project. He was concerned the sewer project was years from completion.
Board President Jennifer Gottschalk agreed. “Something that the group here needs to keep in mind is we can’t hold our project off,” she said. Gottschalk said she was fine with hooking into the sewer if possible, but she also didn’t think the possibility of using it over current septic tanks was worth delaying a building project because of how construction costs increase each year.
Brian Crissman of Christman Construction, on hand at the meeting, suggested the new school building would probably take about 18 months to build and would probably be two years from actual completion. The district could choose to hook up to sewer if it becomes available.
Mastenbrook clarified by saying she was talking about a six-to-twelve-month window where the projects could potentially run in parallel. She also believes the sewer talks are further along than what the school board thinks. “I just don’t want to miss an opportunity to take advantage of that infrastructure from the school side if it aligns or if it’s six months’ difference,” Mastenbrook said. “I’m not talking about five or 10 years down the road.”
Ledlow said he didn’t want the district’s project to get locked on to whatever the village was planning. Gottschalk agreed and suggested the two issues were separate. She suggested the board simply focus on whether they would approve the issue at hand.
“Once we pass the bond, then let’s worry about that,” Gottschalk said. “Let’s get the thing to treasury and let them do their jobs.”
The board ultimately approved a move to submit a draft of the bond application to the State of Michigan. The next step is double-checking all the paperwork before the board considers voting to put the bond issue on the ballot on a later date.