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LETTER: He doesn't feel comfortable deciding about Ellsworth referendum

The $29.45 million school referendum leaves me torn.

The need to upgrade current facilities is clear and the planning committee worked hard. A new elementary school would be an asset to Ellsworth.

What gives me pause is what the process didn’t do, considering how permanent and expensive this decision is. The plans put forth are the most efficient for the district, but should that be the sole basis for this vote?

We didn’t see an option for two new schools. Is a 250 square mile school district best served by one elementary school when there are two population centers--Ellsworth and the river corridor? The cost of building two new smaller schools instead of one large one is prohibitive, according to the superintendent. But we don’t know the cost since it was never on the list of alternatives studied.

Could there have been other options that could combine Lindgren and Prairie View in Hager City and allow a new smaller school in Ellsworth? Could the construction of two new schools with later additions, as needed, be staggered over a number of years to stretch out the tax impact? We may never know.

We didn’t see any population projections for either Ellsworth or the river corridor. This new school is being built for the elementary school population far beyond 2014. Might future growth be greater in the river corridor?

Conversely, having no local school might discourage housing development along the corridor. No one knows. The district did not do a community impact analysis. Homeowners feeling unaffected should consider whether this change could make their property less desirable.

For now, I just don’t feel comfortable making such a major decision based on what I have read and heard.