Printed on: December 24, 2012

Inspection planned for Salmon schools

By Nate Sunderland

A state committee will conduct an inspection of Salmon Middle School and Pioneer Elementary School to determine whether students and faculty face an "imminent hazard."

Salmon School District 291 is seeking ways to repair or rebuild its aging schools after failing to pass seven school bond levies since 2005.

Superintendent Joey Foote went before a three-member panel Tuesday to determine the district's eligibility to use the state Public Schools Facilities Cooperative Funding Program to fix its crumbling schools.

The fund was put into place to provide a mechanism to build or repair new schools for districts that have unsafe buildings but are unable to get a school bond passed.

In response to Foote's request, the committee agreed to hire inspectors to spend several weeks at the Salmon facilities to evaluate the structural integrity of the buildings.

"(Inspectors) are seeking to answer the question of imminent hazard, whether the schools can be fixed, do they need to be replaced and can a fix be sustainable over time," Foote said.

Inspectors will determine whether repair is possible and compare it to the cost of building new schools. If repaired, the buildings must have a 20-year life span in order to use the funds.

There is $15.8 million available in the fund.

The district would receive the money as a state-authorized plant facilities levy. The state then would levy taxes against Salmon School District patrons for up to 20 years to replenish the fund.

District patrons will have one last chance to approve a school bond in March. If that bond does not pass, the district plans to move forward with the state's plan.

Foote hopes the district will receive the committee's approval by March. Once approved, construction or renovation could begin as early as this summer.

Foote said he would be happy to repair or rebuild.

"Our goal isn't just to get a new building, it's to get a safe place for our children," Foote said.

Nate Sunderland can be reached at 542-6763. Comment on this story on Post Talk at talk/.