July 30, 2014

Elyria
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Proposal for Amherst rec center, new elementary turned down

AMHERST — Voters didn’t buy the idea of a combination bond issue-operating levy to build a community recreation center and a new elementary school.
A 6.75-mill issue to fund approximately 50 percent of the costs of each facility was defeated Tuesday by an unofficial vote of 3,538 to 2,640 — a 57 to 43 percent margin.

The combination issue would have raised funds for a planned $12 million community recreation center and $33 million for kindergarten through fourth grade school.

“We had $22 million on the table from the Ohio School Facilities Commission and the Metro Parks to move our schools and community forward, but there is a lot of fear and uncertainty out there,” Amherst Schools Superintendent Steve Sayers said. “There were simply too many hurdles for us to overcome.”
Those included the area’s still-ailing economy, soaring prices at the gas pumps, and the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 5, which severely restricts collective bargaining rights for teachers, police and firefighters and other public employees.

“What the community said to us today was, ‘We want you to do the best you can with the existing resources and buildings you have,’ ‘’ Sayers said. “The community made its choice and I respect that.”

The 45,000 to 50,000-square-foot rec center — which had support from hundreds of residents in surveys by the parks system — was to be operated jointly by the school district and Lorain County Metro Parks.

The new school would have consolidated an estimated 1,300 students who now attend Powers, Shupe and Harris elementary schools, all of which would have been demolished. Bringing students together under one roof in the projected 140,000-square-foot building was estimated to save about $500,000 a year in operating and maintenance costs.

Half the cost of the $33 million school, which was to have been built near Amherst Junior High School, would have come from the state’s facilities commission.

Sayers said the proposal had its run, but will not be mounted again.

“We have 4,200 students and we will continue to work hard to provide them the best education we can day in, day out,” Sayers said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.