Written by Don Ratzlaff Monday, 13 October 2008 02:56Unified School District 410 reached a settlement last week with plaintiff Raymond Brandt, marking the end of a 16-month litigation process regarding the district’s athletic stadium project in partnership with Tabor College.
Under the agreement, the district will pay Brandt $27,500 in lieu of his legal assurance that he will no longer challenge the bond election or the way the bonds approved by voters can be issued.
The document also commits Brandt to not challenge the interlocal agreement made between the district and the college, or the way the new athletic facility will be “maintained, used, managed, paid for or disposed of” in the future.
The settlement clears the way for the district and the college to move forward with the project once the two entities agree on how to address the 20 percent increase in construction costs that has occurred since the bond was approved in June 2007.
The board approved the settlement agreement at a special meeting Wednesday, Oct. 8.
In a prepared statement, the district said: “The board has always felt that it was in the best interest of the district to share the cost of building an athletic facility with Tabor College, instead of the district and Tabor College both building and paying for their own facilities.
“We were always of the firm belief that issuing bonds to pay for half of the costs to construct and equip the athletic facility was entirely lawful and appropriate. We were pleased that Judge Steven Hornbaker agreed when he granted summary judgment to USD 410 on all of Mr. Brandt’s claims on Aug. 19.”
The district stated it was “confident” Hornbaker’s decision would be upheld after Brandt filed an appeal Sept. 16.
“But as the board considered the possibility of dealing with the lawsuit for yet another year or more, and the negative impact this undoubtedly would have on the construction of the new athletic facility, it decided that exploring possible ways of ending this lawsuit would be in the best interest of the district, as well as the college and the community.
“As a result, the board instructed its legal counsel to see if there was any way this lawsuit could be brought to a conclusion.”
The board stated the agreement to pay Brandt $27,500 was not the board’s first choice, but it was “the correct choice.”
If the USD 410 Board had continued to fight the appeal for another year, estimates indicated that additional cost increases could be as high as 12 percent or more as well as $40,000 to $50,000 in additional legal fees.
“By ending the lawsuit now, Tabor College and USD 410 will be able to move forward immediately with the athletic facility project,” according to the statement.
“Although we know there will be those who will not agree with this decision, the USD 410 Board of Education is convinced that it is in the best interest of both schools and the Hillsboro Community.”
According to Superintendent Doug Huxman, representatives from the district and Tabor College are meeting to determine how they will account for the estimated $800,000 increase in construction costs since the lawsuit was filed.
The total cost of the athletic facility was estimated at $4.033 million at the time of the bond election, with the district and the college supplying equal shares of the funding.
Because the district cannot increase the amount it can spend beyond the amount approved by voters in June 2007, the two partners will need to either scale back the project or explore ways to generate additional funding.
Because of those unknowns, Huxman declined to speculate on a timeline for starting construction.