Super Tuesday

Voters to decide fate of new construction questions

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— At some point tonight, officials from the Moffat County School District and The Memorial Hospital will learn whether the immediate futures of their respective organizations will be shaped by voter-approved new construction measures.

Neither group is ready to claim victory. Or defeat.

"Hopefully we'll toast our success instead of cry into our beers," said Pete Bergmann, Moffat County School District superintendent.

"Overall, the feeling of hospital staff and administration is cautious optimism," said Samantha Johnston, TMH spokeswoman and service excellence officer. "We are encouraged by the outpouring of support that we have received in the final week of campaigning and optimistic that the information we have shared is what people needed to know in order to support the project."

Today, Moffat County voters will decide on two proposals: a $29.5 million School District initiative to fund a new Craig Middle School and renovations to all district campuses, and a $42.6 million TMH question, which would pay for the construction of a new hospital.

Although the school district and hospital are hopeful for victory, both agencies have entertained what would happen in the wake of defeat. It's a question neither is prepared to fully answer.

The School District is not certain what its future plans will be in the event its bond does not pass, Bergmann said.

The only certainty is that the district will need additional funds to not only improve its facilities for teachers and students, but bring them up to current standards, he said.

"This (bond funding) is absolutely necessary for us to move forward with our buildings and our technology," Bergmann said. "Failure on this bond is not a long-term option."

Johnston said TMH administrators and board members also would have to readjust plans. The hospital has contended that it would again come back to voters with a tax proposal, should today's vote fail.

"The current planning process will stop immediately," she said. "TMH board of trustees and administration will have to chart a new course. The only certainty is that a new hospital won't be built right now without taxpayer support."

The School District also plans to come back to the voters, most likely in the next few years, Bergmann said.

Should the bond fail, the district will make cuts in its operations budget to pay for capital improvements it cannot delay. The improvements include campus security, fire safety, student drop-off and pickup traffic at Craig Middle School and updating the lighting around the district.

The lights the School District currently uses are going out of production in the next year, mandating the district find another kind of light bulb.

"Whether we put new roofs on buildings, buy new buses or upgrade our infrastructure, that money has to come from somewhere," Bergmann said. "The only place that can come from is operations."

The district's hope is to not cut academic programs, though it is much too early to say what programs are impacted, Bergmann added.

The district has been forced to weigh priorities and make certain cuts for the past few years, partly because of the cost in repairing and renovating old facilities.

Last year, it cut more than $500,000 from its operations budget - including a 10 percent cut in materials and combining certain custodial duties.

The Moffat County School District Board of Education would probably go back to the priority list it made last year, Bergmann said.

The list for possible cuts last year included increasing elementary classroom sizes, cutting coaching staff, closing the swimming pool and evaluating if the Maybell school is economically feasible.

Johnston said TMH did its best to present valuable information to the voting public in hopes of convincing voters of what administrators and board members firmly believe: that a new hospital is necessary to improve the local health care system.

"I don't think a campaign can ever be satisfied - there is always some stone that was left unturned," she said. "I feel very good about how we chose to present the information and about the general reception of the information we did present."

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