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Montezuma-Cortez High School demolition hits speed bump

District officials working to find money
The Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 school district is considering ways to demolish the retired Montezuma-Cortez High School on Seventh Street.

After the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 Board of Education voted at its last meeting in June to demolish the retired high school on Seventh Street, board members said the district needed to do everything it could to find more funding sources to offset the demolition costs.

But board members learned at their meeting Tuesday that some financial options aren’t likely to work out.

“We thought we might find money in grants to demolish the building, but that is not the case,” board President Jack Schuenemeyer said.

At the June meeting, owner’s representative Jim Ketter told board members the district might have access to about $908,000 in Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant funds. About $418,000 of that amount was raised after the district’s 2013 voter-approved bond issue, and about $490,000 represents the matching Colorado Department of Education match for that grant.

However, BEST grant officials won’t award the district the $490,000 because that portion of the grant was closed out last year, according to Jamie Haukeness, the district’s director of facilities and school safety.

Ketter also told the board in June they might be granted an extension to use the $418,000 amount, but BEST officials won’t approve that, either, Haukeness said. The district must use that amount by June 1, 2017, which means they need to work more quickly to start demolition, he said.

“That throws us a curveball,” Haukeness said. “We want to come to closure on this. I know everyone does.”

Re-1 Superintendent Lori Haukeness said grants are less likely to be awarded for demolition projects than they are for construction of something new. Grant officials want to see what you’re building and what you can show them, she said.

About $1.8 million was raised after the 2013 bond issue to build a stadium at the new Montezuma-Cortez High School. In June, board members endorsed a question for the fall election ballot asking voters if the district could use up to $800,000 of that money for demolition efforts instead.

Tuesday, board members unanimously voted changing that question to ask voters if the district could use up to the full $1.8 million in that fund for demolition. Including the question on the ballot will cost the district $10,000, and the finalized wording of the question is due to the Montezuma County Clerk’s office by 4 p.m. Sept. 9.

Jamie Haukeness said the ballot issue is very important.

“If this doesn’t pass, I’m concerned about the building sitting empty for many years,” he said.

If voters approve the ballot question and the district uses stadium funds for demolition, any portion of the $1.8 million not used for demolition would remain in a fund to build a stadium in the future.

There may yet be grant funds available from various agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Jamie Haukeness said.

Lori Haukeness assured the board that the district is still working to explore all possible options.

“We will still be prudent in trying to find other money to use,” she said.

The board also approved a $13,000 expenditure to DPS Design of Albuquerque for demolition design services. That amount already was set aside in November 2015 for the service, said owner’s representative Peter Robinson. Robinson suggested the district aim for starting demolition in the winter, because most local demolition contractors have lighter workloads in the winter months.

Schuenemeyer said everyone on the board wants to see this issue come to a conclusion.

“This may not be everyone’s first choice by a long shot, but we have to get this behind us if we want to move forward,” he said.

Other board actions

Also Tuesday, the board approved a capital reserve request for a $45,000 down payment on a lease-to-own agreement for two buses, one for regular routes and another for activity routes. The two buses will cover the district’s fleet for now, Lori Haukeness said.The board approved a $101,628 supplementary budget item to fund costs for the third year of the University of Virginia turnaround program, in which Mesa, Manaugh and Kemper elementary schools are involved. The money comes from the Early Action Pathways Grant and will fund supplies and travel for the program, which includes two trips for school leaders to the UVA campus, Lori Haukeness said.The board approved a $10,000 capital reserve request for asbestos abatement for the roof at Cortez Middle School. The roof at the school was replaced over the summer.District human resources director Dan Porter said there are still a few teacher positions that need filled. Lori Haukeness said the district’s 37 new teachers are high-quality, and many are local.

Oct 12, 2016
Cortez council endorses demolition of old high school