S’ville plans how to spend bond $$

Written by Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat December 13, 2012 10:14 am

Summerville Union High School District will soon start planning construction projects, having gotten the surprising news this week that its $8 million bond measure passed in the Nov. 6 election after all. 

Summerville High Superintendent John Keiter announced Measure H’s passage to cheers at a district Board of Education meeting Wednesday, thanking board and community members for their support. 

 

 

“We did it, folks,” Keiter said. “We got the $8 million for the kids.” 

In the weeks after the Nov. 6 general election, the bond measure appeared to have failed in the same fashion as another initiative Summerville High attempted to pass in 2010. 

The initial count of ballots that wrapped up Nov. 30 suggested Measure H was voted down by a razor-thin margin of just two votes.

A manual recount finished by the Tuolumne County Elections Office on Tuesday showed that the measure had actually passed by two votes, ensuring funds for what supporters say are badly needed campus improvements.  

An October report prepared by the San Jose-based BCA Architects identified a wide range of problems to be addressed on campus. Those included outdated classrooms and the problematic parking lot in front of the school.

A new sports field and bleachers are in the 20-year facilities plan, as is a new art classroom. Keiter said $4 million in bonds will likely be sold this spring so that projects can begin.

Summerville High will form a steering committee to choose where funds are spent. Some of the projects planned for money from Measure Q of 1998 will get first consideration now, Keiter said. 

Another factor behind the timeline for projects will be practical concerns such as their position on campus. For example, improvements to the parking lot may come later because other projects will bring in heavy equipment that would ruin new paving.

Keiter is now accepting applications for an independent citizen’s oversight committee that will advise the Board of Education on the spending of Measure H funds.

Meanwhile, many community members expressed surprise at the outcome of the Tuesday recount.

“(We) are thrilled that the initiative passed,” said Jan Hiebert, executive director of the nonprofit Summerville High School Foundation.

The foundation had been lobbying intensely for Measure H’s passage, distributing information to voters and even calling pledged supporters at the polls. 

Foundation member Barbara Kerr ponied up $756 to pay for reprocessing the ballots Tuesday, but the cost was refunded by the county because the results changed in her favor.        

Measure H’s surprise victory might well be a first for Tuolumne County, with county Clerk and Auditor-Recorder Debi Russell Bautista attesting she had never seen a recount change the result of a local election. 

The differing counts may be the result of machines that occasionally fail to read penciled-in votes. If tests prove that’s the case, the public may need educating on marking votes darkly enough, Russell Bautista said. 

The complete manual recount involved four elections office staff members and two observers at any given time, Russell Bautista said.

Keiter, Kerr and Summerville High Board of Education member Cheri Farrell traded off on the observations.

Russell Bautista said she received a call from an “angry” citizen Wednesday whose “biggest complaint” about the recount was Keiter’s presence as an observer. 

She said she understood the complaint but that in addition to a superintendent, Keiter was a private citizen who could not have been turned away.

The concerned citizen plans to visit the elections office and view documentation for the recount. 

Meanwhile, the 24-hour period for requesting a third partial recount has expired, and Russell Bautista is sending Tuesday’s results to the California Secretary of State.