George Hresko: Thanks for prudence
A sincere thank you to the board of education and all who have attempted to sort out the school investment needs in Steamboat Springs. The community needs folks like yourselves willing to give your time to improve the quality of our discussion.
Others have addressed demographics, out-of-district students, moving the high school from in town and current overcrowding conditions, as well as the value of parents/teachers versus structures in student achievement.
As a business person, thinking in terms of an investment, I will focus on what I see as insufficiently addressed risks in the $92 million proposal.
I am being asked to make two separate decisions with my vote: (a) the package of capital projects totaling some $92 million, and (b) the method of procuring the monies —a bond being sold as costing a few cents a day. In business, I would balk at being asked to make an investment decision and the funding of it simultaneously.
While the x-cents-per-day message may be an effective tool in advertising, in fact, I am being asked to write a check for almost $100 million without sufficient investment details to support the request. What is the quality of the cost estimates; that is, what information was used?
All estimates have a range of uncertainty — less, if all the design, engineering and purchasing has been accomplished and only field work remains; much more if the estimate is based upon a conceptual design that this is, rules of thumb based on number of students, guesstimates for our location, inflation, weather and others.
The range might be a few percentage points on the low end, to 25 or 30 percent on the latter. The information used in the estimates presented would not meet the lower end of the range criteria, and I would not be surprised that the final costs vary by as much as 20 percent.
The next risk then arises if $92 million is insufficient. What falls by the wayside? Who makes the decisions? Does everything stop and the entire project slate get reconsidered? Is there expertise in the Steamboat Springs school system to manage the high school $70 million project
Putting it bluntly, who (a committee?) is going to be held fully responsible to assure we get the high school promised? When evaluating an investment proposal, I want to know.
The last risk concerns the site for the high school. The site is not included in our current inventory, so I need to know it is a buildable site.
Has a sub-surface evaluation been done and what are the results? The other aspect is the location; not the distance from downtown, but the proximity to residences, other businesses and facilities that could impact its function.
The site is not very far from the end of the runway at Steamboat Springs Airport. The probability of an airplane accident is very low, likely not even once in the time frame of the bond repayment. But, I ask myself, do I take a risk even that remote when perhaps 1,000 lives could be at stake? How can that risk be eliminated?
If I were asked to sign off, I would send the proposing team back to consider each of those risks and return with satisfactory answers. And, meanwhile, I would think about what I would not be able to do if I spent this
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