With the culmination of one construction project on the horizon, the West Salem School Board now has to determine how to proceed with the second.

With the passing of both presented referendums last November, the district got permission to borrow up to $20 million to expand the middle school, and up to $5 million for new outdoor athletics facilities and a multipurpose event center. When crafting the referendum questions, the district contemplated combining the projects, but decided to keep them separated in order to be as transparent on costs as possible to the public.

Now it’s been revealed that the middle school expansion will come in around $1.5 million under what the district estimated, and the combined cost of the athletic facilities and multipurpose center will most likely exceed $5 million.

Most of the estimation difficulties for the athletic facilities stem from the ice rink, which entails a variety of maintenance concerns.

“Designing a multipurpose event center that you can play hockey in is a complicated thing,” said superintendent Troy Gunderson. “Because if you don’t manage the mechanics right, you’ll rust the place from the inside-out.”

Therefore the board was left with a decision to make, to either move forward with the athletic facilities with the budget they currently have, and downsize wherever they can — or seek the public’s permission to use some of the middle school referendum budget towards the athletic facilities. The issue that arises with the latter option is that the board will have to communicate clearly that they aren’t just asking for more money, but instead asking to spread the money out between the two projects.

“The dilemma is that one project costs less, and one project costs more,” said Gunderson. “If we had done the referendum in one question, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, because we could just move the money around.”

There is also the issue of time, with the district having to meet the deadline of the referendum, as well as getting everything built in time for teams and students to use. The district also has to send in their tax levy to Madison by the end of October.

The board has begun to pick apart what is needed in the athletic facilities, and what could be left out. This has turned out to be a tricky stage, with each program having separate wants and needs. This week, the buildings and grounds committee met to begin deciding how they would prioritize the pieces to the second project, if they decide to stick with the original budget. One option would be to have certain programs raise enough to cover the necessary price tag.

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