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KLCC News will be covering many aspects of the May 2014 Primary Election. Visit this page for all election related stories.

Fern Ridge Bond Supporters Optimistic For May Vote

Karen Richards

After two recent bond defeats, Fern Ridge school buildings have only fallen into further disrepair. Bond proponents in Veneta and Elmira have high hopes their measure will pass in May.

The Fern Ridge School District serves a growing community of about 10 thousand people in Walton, Noti, Veneta and Elimira. The 26-million dollar bond would pay for facilities and technology. Almost half the funds would be used to replace Elmira Elementary School. Jackie Turle is the principal there. She says the 65-year old building isn't healthy for kids or staff.

Turle: "Our roofs leak. So whenever we have a big storm here I come on the weekends and make sure it's not leaking on computer equipment. There's dry rot in the foundation. We have carpenter ants so that on a warm day we'll have sometimes 200-300 carpenter ants in the hallway and then the floor is slippery, actually, from the kids stepping on them and then I have to go clean that up."

Credit Karen Richards
Grounds Manager Jeffrey Thiessen points to the outdated structure of Elmira Elementary. The wood is rotten where it meets the ground. In addition, drainage pipes on this wall dump water directly into the dirt, with no irrigation to lead moisture away from the building.

Neither Elmira nor Veneta Elementary has room for full-day kindergarten, which is required in Oregon by fall, 2015.

Voters defeated similar bonds in 2010 and 2011. The more recent measure lost by a 60- to 40-percent margin. Proponents say they're better prepared this time. Olivia Johnson is the principal at Veneta Elementary. She says a facilities committee worked for months before presenting the bond proposal to the school board:

Johnson: "We have put an amazing amount of thought into the plan and we have a better, more comprehensive plan for how the funds would be spent. We were able to do a better job assessing the needs of the district."

The school board voted unanimously to bring the bond to voters.

But there are still some doubters. Kim Kilmer chairs the group "Citizens for Fern Ridge Schools:"

Kilmer: "I've heard a few concerns when we've had phone banks. A few people are worried about their taxes. And we've addressed that issue by saying we don't expect to have an increase in taxes. This just extends the life of the current bond."

The new bond is expected to cost about the same as an expiring 1997 levy. Property owners would pay about $220 for every $100,000 of assessed value. Kilmer encourages anyone who still has questions to contact the schools. Information on the bond can be found here.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.
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