Written by Don Ratzlaff Friday, 26 September 2008 05:38Officials from Unified School District 410 said Friday the district may move ahead with the athletic stadium project in partnership with Tabor College if an Oct. 7 initial hearing in the appeal process goes as expected.
District Judge Steven Hornbaker ruled in a summary judgment Aug. 19 that the lawsuit field by district patron Raymond Brandt to block the stadium project was found to have “no factual issues to be decided.”
Brandt’s attorney had argued that state law requires a school district to be the sole owner of its property.
The plaintiff’s appeal was filed Sept. 16.
Superintendent Doug Huxman and school board President Rod Koons said the Oct. 7 hearing, requested by the plaintiff’s attorney, is not uncommon in the appeals process. Judge Hornbaker will summarize or clarify his ruling before the two parties.
“Basically, it’s to have the judge reiterate what he meant by his judgment,” Koon said. “And to find out if he’s had any second thoughts since the judgment was made.”
If Hornbaker reaffirms his decision in the case, Huxman said, the district will then explore its ability to proceed with the stadium project before a final judgment is made on the appeal -- which could take up to a year.
“We are looking into ways that can be done,” Huxman said. “We have not come to any final conclusions on that, but those options are being explored.”
Huxman said it is his understanding that the district would not be legally prohibited from starting the project before the appeal is decided.
“Those are things we’re trying to look at carefully,” he said. “I think the idea is more how can we be sure to protect (the district’s interests) down the line.”
Both Huxman and Koons said the district has not waivered on its agreement with Tabor College to be equal partners and owners of the stadium project, which was projected to cost $4.4 million when it was proposed for the 2007 bond election.
During the time that has elapsed since the lawsuit was filed, the cost of the project has increased by an estimated $800,000, Koons said.
Huxman and Koons said the district and college will need either to find additional money to complete the project as originally proposed, or reduce the scope of the project when it moves ahead.
In addition to the cost of the project, to date the district has paid nearly $79,000 in legal fees since the lawsuit was filed, Huxman said. About $41,000 of that expense has been covered by the district’s liability insurance.
Huxman and Koons said the district’s intention at this time is to see the issue through until it is resolved in the court system. It is possible that the appeal process could go as far as the Kansas Supreme Court.
“We started that (project) in good faith -- that it was something good for the community -- and that has not changed,” Huxman said. “It is still the feeling of the board that this was the correct thing to do.
“When you’re in a small community like this, you don’t try to find ways to make things grandiose for both groups. You try to find ways to pull things together so you work together as a community.
“I think the majority of the community leaders that I’ve talked to agree with that premise.”