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Leaders consider cost to repair school's plumbing, move to talk of construction bond

After just one school construction bond passed in the last three decades and after several failed attempts to pass one in recent years, Molalla River School District leaders again discussed the potential to put a school construction bond on the ballot. However, Superintendent Tony Mann said there is currently no substantive discussion or planning underway to put a bond before voters.

Following Molalla River Middle School's recent water situation, where a broken pipe caused the water to be shut off for weeks, the school board asked to find out how much a total overhaul of the plumbing system would cost.

In response to that request, on May 9, the district's business manager, Rick Gill, brought Architect Dave Johnson before the board, who has experience working with Oregon City School District to pass a bond.

Johnson said that to revamp the plumbing, the prospective cost is now sitting at about $10-12 per square foot, according to May 9 board meeting minutes.

With the middle school coming in at about 90,000 square feet, the cost to bring the plumbing up to standard would be upwards of $900,000.

With that in mind, the conversation moved from plumbing repair to the potential to put a construction bond on the ballot.

Board Vice Chair Linda Eskridge said that in prior bond attempts, perhaps the board should have focused on replacing just the middle school instead of attempting to replace two buildings, according to the minutes.

Johnson noted that Oregon City School District began in 2015 and created a communication plan to engage and gauge the community. While the Oregon City district had two aging middle schools, in 2018, it drafted and passed a bond to replace one school and substantially renovate the other.

For Molalla, Mann suggested forming a committee, made up of 2-3 board members and Administrators Mann, Gill and Facilities Supervisor Tony Tiano, to review the facilities plan. The board agreed and Mann said he would work with Gill to get the ball rolling.

According to Mann, the committee will form over the coming months to "attend to matters related to district facilities and long-range planning." He said that while funding discussions may eventually turn to the need for a bond, no plans are in place yet.

At a June meeting, former teacher and Mayor Mike Clarke suggested that in order to pass a bond in Molalla, board members ought to get out into the community.

"I feel that I'm going to be here a while. I hope that I can live to see one of these passing," Clarke said. "I really want you to get out and attend—attend a football game, a basketball game, a volleyball game, a band concert. You know, sit there in the crowd. Walk around and just visit and let them know you're there."

Kristen Wohlers
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