PLEASANT HILL — The Newton Local School district is now in the preliminary stages of erecting a new athletic/community center.
The 12,000-square-foot standalone facility will tentatively be located in the rear of the district’s main campus.
For the design-build project, requests for proposal are currently open for submission by interested companies. According to Superintendent Pat McBride, this process offers the district a financial advantage in guaranteeing no change-overs or budget overruns during construction.
“The project is set before it even begins, and whoever is awarded that contract must build for the amount they agreed to,” McBride said. “It’s advantagous to us as a district for us to say, ‘Here’s our budget. What can you give us for this amount?’ From there, the builders can look at that, and say what adjustments they can make to it. It’s kind of an evolution of the design that takes place, but it will all be within the scope of what we can afford.”
The district is currently working with Fanning Howey, an architecture firm the district has worked with on prior projects. In early December, the firm submitted conceptual drafts to the board on proposed simulations of what the center could look like.
The center’s projected cost is $1.5-1.75 million. McBride insists that no extra money will be requested from taxpayers.
“New Ohio laws have come into place that allow districts to obtain money for projects through a lend-lease agreement,” McBride said. “Basically, what we’d do is put a certain amount of money down, and from then on, the balance would be paid off over several years through a lease. At the end of the lease, the building becomes ours.”
The district’s down payment in the agreement would be approximately $200,000-300,000.
“We’re hoping to keep that agreement to around 10-15 years,” McBride clarified. “Interest rates aren’t quite as low as they were, but they’re good right now. The lease agreement can be really advantageous to us in order for us to get a low interest rate.”
The district hopes to negotiate contracts in time to break ground in early spring, and would take 12-18 months to construct.
The building will consist of a full gymnasium with an all-purpose floor and walk-around track, a batting cage and pitching area, a fully equipped fitness center, and boys’ and girls’ locker rooms accessible from both indoors and outdoors. The building will also include a conference room, a large gathering room, and a kitchen.
McBride stated that the building’s athletic utility would primarily be for youth programs, such as baseball and softball practices.
“When teams practice during inclement weather early in the season, you’ve got hard balls being hit off the wood floors, and things potentially being damaged in the gym,” McBride said. “This facility would offer a space more conducive to that sort of activity. Our elementary programs take up a significant amount of time and space, of which we can only offer them later at night during the week. It’s not good to have students grades 3-6 practicing at 8 p.m. and then going until 9:30 p.m., so this would provide an opportunity for those programs to be held at a more reasonable time.”
McBride also suggested that while the center would meet the needs of the school district, it would also provide a benefit to the community.
“We don’t really plan on using it for school activities during the daytime,” McBride said. “We hope to open that up to our community members to come and walk, weightlift, and exercise during the day. We also have a tremendous demand right now for our facilities for things like church gatherings, alumni events, and family reunions, so this will take pressure off of that, and allow those events to be held in a standalone facility.
The facility would not only provide convenience for community events, but ensure additional security to the district’s campus.
“We see this as a way to secure our building better as well,” McBride said. “The community is always very good at cleaning up after themselves and that sort of thing, but with people coming in on evenings and weekends, we don’t have always have someone around from an adminstrative standpoint. This would be a way to keep those events going in a way that’s more secure than what we’re currently doing.”
One requirement being acknowledged in the center’s construction is an ongoing maintenance fund, which McBride indicated will be held in practice similarly to the district’s main campus.
“When you build these things, you need to think long term,” McBride said. “When we built our facility in 2010, they required us to have a maintenance millage in place, and we do. We get compliments all the time on how our exterior facilities look and how the soccer fields and track are maintained, and we’ve done all this through a common sense approach — not all at once, but on a pay-as-you-go basis.”
McBride and members of the Newton Local School board are confident in the project, due to the proven model exhibited by similar districts in the area.
“There are other communities and schools doing such a thing, and it’s been very well-received,” McBride said, citing the St. Henry, Arcanum, and Ansonia school districts. “On the financial side, we obviously want to be good stewards of our taxpayer money, and when we think about things our district needs that would be good for kids and for the community, this certainly fits both.
“We’re using what’s within our means on this project, and are being financially wise with each decision we’re making. We have some of the best facilities for a district our size in the state, and want to continue to attract a good student population through open enrollment. This option will allow us to further emphasize our programs, and continue to be a leader in drawing students and families that want Newton to be their school choice.”
For more information, visit www.newton.k12.oh.us.