EDITORIAL: A project people could support

In the end it really wasn’t that close. Voters in the Ely school district tallied two to one in favor of a $10 million school bond referendum.
The positive vote last week allows the district to start on a $20 million project that will change the look and feel of the school campus. But there were times when the project appeared doomed.
There was a change of superintendents during the planning process and a massive change in what the project was to include. Throw in a pandemic that only allowed for one meeting where the public could ask questions face to face and you have a project that made it through despite the obstacles.
At first we thought this was going to be enclosed passageways between three buildings to keep students from having to go outside. In the end the it became so much more. A gymnasium was included and the old Industrial Arts building will be replaced by a structure that will connect the Memorial and Washington buildings. The former heating plant building will also be demolished.
Even the old pool area will be remodeled and made usable again. When the pool closed the district used the space for storage. Now it will be 6,000 square feet of fitness equipment, weights and locker rooms.
There really wasn’t any organized opposition to the project. A former teacher and swim coach pointed to the need for a pool and made some good arguments. But the district is rightfully gun shy to get back in the pool business where the maintenance costs can sink a balance sheet.
We would still like to see a community pool and maybe the proposed Ely Recreation Complex will solve that problem.
Back to the school building project and the trials and tribulations along the way. The district struggled at times to define what it wanted and there were multiple plans prepared, modified and discarded.
One of the best moves made was to bring the Costin Group on board to help change the project into something the IRRRB would fund and voters would approve. Those changes were made rapidly and effectively. There was also an increase in the space for shop classes, a key component we heard about from voters.
While there wasn’t focused opposition, there was a volunteer support group that worked very hard to get a positive message out to the public. Absent any public meetings, this group made over 1,000 phone calls, sent out mailings and spread the word on how our school children would benefit.
For all the people who worked to make this project a reality, thank you for the time you spent to make our community a better place.
And to the over 1,000 voters who filled in the circle next to yes, thank you from the students of today and in years to come.