Written by Don Ratzlaff Wednesday, 20 June 2007 02:10
For the time being, the word is “wait.”
Attorneys for plaintiff Raymond Brandt and for the defendant, Unified School District 410, were corresponding behind the scenes last week regarding the lawsuit filed on Brandt’s behalf that seeks to prevent USD from selling bonds to be used for a new athletic facility in joint ownership with Tabor College.
The lawsuit, filed June 4 in district court, claims a school district is not authorized under Kansas law to enter into joint ownership of property. It seeks to stop the sale of $2.116 million in bonds that were designated in a $6.625 million total bond package to develop a new football and track-and-field facility.
Tabor College would contribute an equal amount of money to the project.
The total bond package was approved by voters June 5 by a margin of 465 to 404.
It remains to be seen whether the sale of bonds on the other three components of the total project will be affected by the suit.
The USD 410 Board of Education called a special meeting June 12 to meet in executive session with its attorneys to discuss its response to the lawsuit. No decisions were made in public session.
“It’s kind of a waiting game,” said Rod Koons, board president. “We don’t have any plans to meet in the near future unless we come across with some answer we need to make.”
Coming out of last Tuesday’s meeting, Koons said he still is “most definitely” confident about the legal position the board took when it moved forward with the joint-ownership initiative with Tabor College.
Even if the arrangement is unprecedented in Kansas, he added, it is important for the future of small towns.
“This project, to me, is more than just an athletic field situation,” Koons said. “It’s a concept that has a lot of validity, that I think small towns in central Kansas need to look at.
“Someone has to be a risk-taker out there and step up and look at things that are new, innovated and different,” he said.
“Personally, I wouldn’t care if this was an athletic field, or an auditorium, or a playground, or whatever. We need to be able to make things like this work—and be within the realm of the law.
“We feel we’ve done the due diligence to support that, because it just makes sense. It’s what (small towns) need to do if we’re going to maintain the lifestyle we want to have, plain and simple.
“I guarantee you that if this becomes successful and becomes reality, it will be viewed as a model that a lot of places are going to look at. It will be a good example, which is a neat thing.”
Koons said he holds no malice toward the plaintiff, who lives and farms northeast of Hillsboro.
“We all have the right to our opinion,” Koons said. “That’s probably one thing I’ve learned to appreciate out of this. Everyone’s opinion is of value. But we also need to be of a spirit where we agree to disagree, but then we support the decision.
“We have to have that philosophy and mindset if we’re going to move forward and have our community and county be where we want it be.”
Koons said the only change in plan the board has conceded to date is to put the architectural design work on the athletic facility on hold for the time being.
“We have halted Howard & Helmer on the portion of work they’re doing on the Tabor College project so we can keep from incurring any further expense until we know what direction we’re going,” Koons said.
“Being the bond issue passed, (the architects) are eligible to bill for the services they provided for that,” he said. “That’s about the only thing we’ve done differently, and that’s to protect the district from further financial obligations when we’re in the state of question.”
Koons said he still doesn’t know how long that “state of questioning” will last.
“We would like to see it be something that would be a quick and easy deal, but I think we have to be realistic, too,” Koons said.
“It takes time for the system to work, whichever way it goes. We sure don’t want to rush through and make a hasty decision that isn’t the right thing to make.”
Koons said construction costs will continue to rise as time passes. Other than that, “If we’re talking the big picture, what’s another six months or even another year?”