By Samuel Strait, Reporter at Large – July 8, 2021

It would appear, at least according to Director of Facilities and
Construction, Steve Morgan, that many of Del Norte County’s schools are
suffering from lack of maintenance.  In a long list of local schools,
Pine Grove, Bess Maxwell, Smith River, Mountain, Redwood and the
district’s newest school Mary Peacock are falling apart.  The rational
behind the situation is that most of those listed are 60 to 70 years
old.  Pictures provided by Morgan of Joe Hamilton School, currently
under going a $2 million renovation with money from the last of the
previous $25 million dollar bond, are showing rotten boards, old
windows, and debris from the roof removal at the school.  While this is
held up as evidence of the critical need for yet more taxpayer approved
bond money, it also illuminates the glaring deficiency of the district’s
regular maintenance program.

Most people in this community are acutely aware of the harsh climate in
this area and spend regular dollars on keeping up with necessary repairs
on their dwellings.  What has happened at the school’s maintenance
department or with the director of facilities and construction Steve
Morgan that these conditions exist? Perhaps it is time for him to vacate
his position and use his no doubt six figure salary to cover the
maintenance costs that he seems to find  it necessary to add yet more
taxes on the already over burdened tax payer.  At $2 million for
renovation at Joe Hamilton, it only needs to be pointed out that the $25
million school bond could have have covered all six schools and left $13
million for the High School, Crescent Elk, Joe Hamilton and the various
school district offices.  Seems Klamath remains an orphan.

It is beyond past time that the school district’s bond advisory group
identified themselves and explained what happened to the first $25
million before any conversation or money is spent for a consulting group
to survey the community for another $47,000,000 which will turn into
nearly a $100,000,000 burden on local property owners.  Since the $47
million would only cover the cost for 40% of the planned projects, the
State picking up the remaining $75,000,000, making the taxpayer on the
hook for $120,000,000 plus interest.  If a school renovation can be done
for $2 million, as is the case for Joe Hamilton, six schools, $12
million, where is the remaining $108 million going to be spent?

It never fails when a local bureaucrat gets the wind in their sails and
dollars in their eye, the taxpayer is bound to suffer. In this case
three important questions need to be asked before another school bond
appears before the public. 

1.) Where did the 2012 school bond money go? 

2.) What happened to the maintenance program at each of the affected
schools, especially Mary Peacock? 

3.) And finally, why such a large amount to modernize the six schools?

Seems as though the local school board needs to back up and do a little explaining before this new money is in
the conversation.

As an aside, a little janitorial work at all the schools would be well advised.

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