Robin Schepper and Eric Washburn: School needs help
With one son in fourth grade and another in eighth grade, we are closely following the debate about the high school bond issue. Reading the Sept. 29 front page article about that topic, we were struck by the following three facts.
■ The proponents have yet to convince a majority that this makes sense — only 24.6 percent today agree that this is the best path forward.
■ Bringing it to a vote now is seriously dividing the Steamboat community.
■ It is an enormous sum of money to spend to address only one of the many infrastructure needs of the Steamboat community.
Rather than pushing for a major commitment by the Steamboat Springs community to fund a $92 million bond, it probably makes more sense to take a time-out, avoid what is likely to be an acrimonious vote in November and spend time creating a master plan with the input of a broad range of stakeholders that addresses all the major issues facing Steamboat.
One of the big challenges facing government is that it often works in silos, usually based on the funding it receives. Ninety-two million dollars for a new high school is a huge investment for a population of 12,000 people to shoulder, but more importantly, it represents an inefficient and siloed approach.
In this age of fiscal scarcity, our government entities need to look more closely at ways to leverage assets and collaborate more. The residents’ committee recommendation of housing the sheriff’s department and city police in the same building is a perfect example of collaboration and leveraging of assets.
As we look to the issues facing our children and families today, how can the community work together to come up with a master plan that addresses the future educational infrastructure needs of our children and benefits everyone?
Our schools need renovation and repair and potentially expansion; our children would benefit from more athletic fields and an indoor field house; we could use a community center so kids and teens have a place to be active and socialize; we should consider ways to enhance and expand opportunities on Howelsen Hill; the community could use more affordable housing; and we need a better sidewalk and bike trail infrastructure, so kids and community members can safely reach their destinations without risk of being hit by a car.
A number of parents are active on both sides of the bond issue and a number of parents raised private money to build a field house on middle school grounds that was rejected by the school district.
Instead of forcing a showdown in November that will just polarize the community further, create an enormous financial burden and address only a fraction of the city’s infrastructure needs, we should consider hitting the reset button and bring together all the active parents and community members who worked on the field house, Howelsen Hill’s master plan, affordable housing, the bike network and both sides of the school bond issue and come up with a better plan to efficiently address a broader range of Steamboat’s infrastructure needs.
With more community input, Steamboat could create a master plan that addresses many of our pressing issues and at the same time maintains our rural character and our desire to be sustainable, reflects our active lifestyle and uses taxpayer dollars in the most responsible manner.
Robin Schepper and Eric Washburn
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