Leigh voters approve bonds for new high school

November 9, 2018

LEIGH — School bonds usually aren’t this easy.

Voters from Colfax, Platte and Stanton counties in the Leigh school district overwhelmingly approved Tuesday a nearly $10 million bond issue for a new junior-senior high school and other renovations.

The final vote was 343 in favor and 170 against, which is nearly 67 percent in favor and 33 percent against. This was the first try to gain voter support for the bond issue, with many bond issues taking at least two attempts for approval.

In Colfax County where the school is located, the vote as 220 votes or 77.5 percent in favor and 64 votes or 22.5 percent against.

“We are very excited,” said Stephanie Petersen, Leigh superintendent. “This took a lot of work. We had an awesome advisory group. The board was behind it. The staff was behind it. The community was behind it. I’m just so happy to be a part of it.”

Petersen said there was a lot of community involvement and tours of the existing high school, which is more than 100 years old.

While many people are nostalgic about the old building — which is beautiful — the need for renovations is apparent inside, Petersen said.

“It would cost more to modify it than build a new one. There’s just so many issues and codes. We would have to put elevators in,” she said.

The exact amount of the renovation is $9,950,000 for a new junior-senior high school, which will be built onto the elementary school.

The school board has been preparing for the addition for several years, setting aside $1.2 million in the district’s building fund. The total cost of the project is $11,150,000.

The total costs include demolishing the existing high school and making other repairs and renovations to the existing facilities.

Benefits include about 1,000 square feet to expand programs, including a vocational and agricultural classroom and lab expansion, larger and more modern science classroom, improved fine arts and performing space, expanded space for science, technology, engineering and math, controlled heating and cooling in classrooms and more.

The bond includes a gym that would be 84 feet by 50 feet, which would allow for two 70-foot-by-50-foot cross courts. Seating could be included for up to 1,000 spectators.

Leigh Community Schools also has a growing enrollment, with the current junior and senior classes the smallest. The biggest class is fourth grade with 22 students, but most grades have 14 to 18 students.

The Leigh district also has 49 students who opt in for school. Petersen said now that the bond has passed, it will be interesting to see if the number grows more.

She said some of the people who worked hard on the project were Tobin Buchanan of First National Capital Markets, and Cody Hillen of DLR Group. Hillen is a Leigh alumnus.

The next step will be to hire an architect. Then a contractor will be hired, with hopes that construction will begin next spring, Petersen said.

IN FOUR Northeast Nebraska communities, residents approved new sales taxes.

In Laurel, residents voted 279-109 to impose a 1 percent city sales tax for the next 10 years. Funds will be used for city infrastructure, including streets, water, sewer and electrical. It is estimated the tax would generate about $115,000 annually.

In Coleridge, residents voted 102-70 to impose a 1 percent sales tax for 10 years. It also would be used for streets and infrastructure needs.

In Pender, voters approved a 1½ percent sales tax. The community has had a 1 percent city sales tax for nearly 10 years. Proceeds will go toward community development planning and projects, as well as infrastructure maintenance and improvements.

A Thurston County court spokeswoman said the unofficial vote in Pender was 289 in favor and 136 against.

Osmond voters also approved a sales tax of 1/2 percent, but it will go toward a $1.4 million swimming pool on city-owned land. The vote was 226 in favor and 86 against to issue the bonds.

Also, residents voted 219-94 to approve an additional 1/2 percent sales tax to pay for the bonds. Osmond already has a 1 percent sales tax on the books.

THERE ALSO WERE some interesting mayoral races on ballots Tuesday.

In West Point, Bruce Schlecht, a longtime councilman and baseball coach, defeated Alexander Norton 767 to 330.

Schlecht will succeed Marlene Johnson, who is in her 20th year as mayor and a former president of the League of Nebraska Municipalities. Schlecht and Norton advanced from a crowded Republican primary last May that also included Johnson.

In Madison, incumbent Mayor Alvin Brandl defeated challenger Robert Jurgens, 290 to 281.

Finally, in Crofton, Sharol Lawhead defeated Bob Hegge 230 to 153 in their bids to succeed Wendell Strom. Crofton has been going through some internal matters, including some controversies over a new street assessment and financial audit.

Elsewhere, Antelope County voters approved a ballot measure proposed by the Antelope County Agriculture Society that will increase its property tax levy from .43 of a cent to .55 of a cent. That would translate into slightly more than a $1 increase for a property owner with a $100,000 valuation.

The additional money would allow for more growth in the areas of 4-H and FFA at the Antelope County Fair. The vote was 1,199 in favor and 1,104 opposed.

In Scribner, voters have decided to bar employing or renting residences to people living in the U.S. illegally. The proposed ordinance in Scribner was approved by more than 69 percent of voters Tuesday. The Scribner City Council voted in July to put the issue on the general election ballot.

The push for such rules came as the area prepares for an influx of workers for Costco’s new chicken processing plant in neighboring Fremont.

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