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Voters approve $1.8 million to demolish old M-CHS

Jamie Haukeness discusses possible uses of the old Montezuma-Cortez High School in March.

Voters on Tuesday approved a Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 school district request for permission to spend up to $1.8 million toward demolition of the old high school on W. Seventh Street.

The vote was 5,358 to 3,078, passing with 63.51 percent of the vote.

Superintendent Lori Haukeness said the district is excited to move forward.

“I’m very excited about being able to put in motion all our planning leading up to today,” she said Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to next summer when we have the retired high school demolished and we are working on renovating Panther Stadium.”

The money has been held in reserve to build a new sports stadium, but the school board agreed earlier this summer that the funds are needed more to tear down the old high school, which contains friable asbestos that must be mitigated.

Board members voted to raze the school at a June meeting. The decision came after a 28-member task force recommended they do so.

Made up of district staff, local government officials and members of the public, the task force met over several months in the spring to investigate options for the former high school, which was retired after the 2014-2015 school year. The task force studied several topics including district financing options, abating asbestos, demolishing the building and long-term planning for the site.

Haukeness thanked the task force and the City of Cortez for their support on the measure. She said district officials are glad to be able to honor their commitment to the city by razing the school. The district promised to demolish the school as part of the original 2013 bond measure, which raised $42 million to build the new high school.

Initially, the school board decided to ask voters to use up to $800,000 of the stadium money for the demolition, thinking that more money would be available through grants. However, district officials discovered that few grants are awarded for demolition of buildings. So, the board decided instead to ask voters for permission to use the full stadium reserve amount.

At the board’s 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, Jamie 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.

Any unused money from the demolition will be used to upgrade Panther Stadium at Cortez Middle School. Including the question on the ballot cost the district $10,000.

GOP candidates lead in state education races

Final results were unavailable for the 3rd Congressional District seat on the Colorado Board of Education with 19 of 29 counties in the district reporting as of 12:15 a.m.

Joyce Rankin, the Republican incumbent, held off her opponent, Democrat Christine Pacheco-Koveleski, with 59 percent of the vote.

The board has a strong agenda over the coming year, including hiring a new education commissioner, working with the school districts and schools that have been considered failing five years in a row on the accountability clock and integrating the new Every Student Succeeds Act into Colorado’s education system.

Rankin won the Montezuma County race, with 7,978 votes, or 67.4 percent. Pacheco-Koveleski took 3,864 votes, representing 32.6 percent of votes cast in the county.

In the race for the at-large seat on the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents, Republican Heidi Ganahl won leading with 52.5 percent of the vote.

Her opponent, Democrat Alice Madden, had received 47.5 percent of the vote at that time.

The Board of Regents is dealing with tightening budgets as state funds decrease, decreasing student debt and increasing graduation rates as well as a potential search for a new CU president in the coming years as the current president, Bruce D. Benson, is 78.

In Montezuma County, Ganahl took 7,258 votes, or 63.7 percent. Madden earned 4,132 local votes, or 36.3 percent.