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Murray School District puts $33 million bond to voters

Published June 21, 2012 11:09 am

Hillcrest Junior High • Seismic concerns, uncoordinated construction pose issues.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

On Tuesday, residents of the Murray School District will decide whether to approve a $33 million bond to build a new middle school.

If it passes, taxpayers will see a $58-per-year increase in property taxes on a $200,000 home for the next 20 years to pay for the new Hillcrest Junior High School building.

On June 19, the school district held the last of a series of meetings that provided voters with bond information and took questions from the public.

While bond information meetings set up by the school district were not well-attended, said former Superintendent Richard Tranter, multiple methods including articles in The Valley Journal were employed to reach the community with bond information.

Rebuilding the middle school is a necessary project, said current Superintendent Steven Hirase.

The junior high was constructed in 1948 and has had parts added to it and remodeled multiple times in the years since. Without a master plan for the building, construction spurts have led to the "poor" design of the building.

"[A person] must take two different elevators to get to the top floor," said Hirase, who also attributed the building's lack of heat circulation and "many hallways that do not lead to anything" to its conglomerate construction.

However, Hirase said, the main concern for rebuilding the middle school is safety, a sentiment shared by the Murray police and fire departments.

The police and fire departments are the bond's "biggest supporters," said Hirase, due to the safety threats and seismic concerns they recognize in the building's construction.

Interviews with Murray City Chief of Police Pete Fondaco and Fire Chief Gil Rodriguez are featured on the Murray School District website, which gives testimony of the building's layout being unsafe.

Along with the new building, $4 million will go to making seismic upgrades at all other schools in the district except Murray High School. All of the other schools are between 31 and 59 years old and are not seismically sound.

While the state of the economy may make this year seem untimely for the bond proposal, Hirase said lowered interest rates and construction costs due to the current economic climate will save taxpayers money.

District staff considered making improvements to the current middle-school building instead of replacing it, but officials opted for the rebuild because the costs were nearly the same and the remodeling proposal didn't address many safety issues, Tranter said.

The school district's parent committee also discussed the bond proposal and unanimously voted in favor of asking school district residents to fund building a new middle school with their tax money.

If approved by voters, construction of the new middle school would begin in February 2013 and is projected to be complete in two years.