Voters OK tax hike for school upgrades

But south Routt public library plan loses at polls

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— South Routt voters passed the first school bond in 20 years Tuesday night, while the library proposals on the ballot fell short.

In an election that saw solid voter turnout for south Routt County, people who went the polls decided to tax themselves for $8.9 million over 20 years to pay for remodeling and additions to all three schools in the South Routt School District.

The final results showed 770 people voting "yes" for the bond and 466 voting "no."

"I had a good feeling that this was going to happen," said Bill Babcock, a South Routt School Board member who waited with other school officials at the Routt County Courthouse in Steamboat Springs to see the voting results.

South Routt Superintendent Steve Jones wasn't as confident as Babcock.

"I was a little nervous," he admitted.

When Jones took the job as superintendent more than a year ago, he made it his first priority to get a bond passed to repair the schools.

"I'd say the people who cared came out to vote," Jones said.

He also pointed out that the work by the approximately 15-member Better Education for Schools Today (BEST) group, which campaigned for the bond, was a key factor in the win.

The work would be broken up into three projects for each school.

First is a $1.8 million addition and upgrade of the South Routt Elementary School.

That includes a six-classroom wing onto the school. It also will move the library, special education classes and other school programs out of three, 25-year-old double-wide trailers and into the school building.

The Soroco Middle School will benefit from a $1.8 million project to repair the 77-year-old building, making it into a modern schoolhouse within the walls of a historic structure.

That project will replace windows, ceilings, walls and bathrooms. It also includes exterior and interior wall repair, electrical wiring for Internet and plumbing work.

Soroco High School's project will cost $3.5 million. That covers building a new gym that is regulation size. Soroco's current gym is too small, to the point that some school officials have expressed concerns about safety.

Furthermore, the high school project includes building new locker rooms, a new agricultural building, a commons area for the students and carpeting the entire school.

The elementary school and high school projects are expected to be finished in 2001, while the middle school will be done in 2002.

The library proposal, which asked for

$1.2 million to build a new public library in Oak Creek and additional tax increases to operate it, didn't have the same kind of success, but the votes were close.

The project was covered in two questions on the ballot 4B lost 572 to 653 and 4C fell 552 to 671.

Library officials indicated they will try for another bond issue to build a new library next year.

The final blueprints for the library showed a 5,800-square-foot building on Sharp and Oak streets.

Included in the building plan is a large area for books, with places to read, a public meeting room and an outdoor plaza.

"This is mainly to solve the space inadequacy problem in the current libraries," project manager Dina Murray said before the vote.

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