The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 11, 2013

Webb City School Board to seek $9 million bond issue for safe rooms

By Ryan Richardson

WEBB CITY, Mo. — Webb City voters in April will consider a $9 million bond issue that would help fund the construction of safe rooms at several schools in the district.

The Board of Education on Jan. 8 voted unanimously to place the measure on the April 2 ballot. The project to add six safe rooms at local schools, five of which would be open for use by the community, would also be met with funds from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.

Superintendent Tony Rossetti said he expects the community to pass the bond.

Rossetti said the 20-year bond would extend the current debt-service levy, which is 68 cents. Under the current total levy of $3.43 per $100 of assessed valuation, which also includes $2.75 for operations, the owner of a $100,000 home pays $651.70 in school taxes annually. The issue will require a four-sevenths, or 57.1 percent, for passage.

The FEMA grant for the safe room program is part of a 75 percent match grant with the district. The district will pay $2.4 million to receive $7.2 million from the government.

Rossetti said the grant only covers the outer shell of the six rooms. This means that aside from its $2.4 million match, the district would pay for anything beyond the rooms’ shells, such as paint, flooring or sound systems.

That could bring the total cost of the project to nearly $18 million, which Rossetti said he thinks would be covered by the grant and the bond issue before voters in April with the extension of the debt-service levy at 68 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

“It will be up to us to fill these rooms up at our own costs,” he said. “This will be almost 90,000 square feet added to our district, which is like an additional school. But this will expand our facilities to meet our district’s needs.”

Four safe rooms are planned to be built between Harry S. Truman Elementary School and Bess Truman Primary Center, at Webster Primary Center, at Madge T. James Kindergarten Center and at the middle school. They will double as multipurpose rooms for activities such as indoor recesses or physical education classes, thereby freeing up classroom space elsewhere in the schools, Rossetti said.

The two remaining safe rooms are planned for the junior high school, where it will be built as a library and media center, and the north side of the high school, where it will double as a gymnasium. Rossetti said that room will be connected to the high school by a new cafeteria and commons area.

All the rooms are expected to hold between 1,000 and 2,000 people, with the high school safe room holding up to 3,000 people, Rossetti said. All will be open to the public during emergencies except for the room at Webster, which already has a community safe room near it, he said.

If voters approve the bond issue in April, Rossetti said he expects to break ground on the safe rooms by October or November, with construction to last six to 12 months.

Globe staff writer Emily Younker contributed to this report.

Community breakfast

The school district will hold a breakfast for community leaders, parents, staff and patrons at 7 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, at Webb City Middle School. Reservations are requested by Wednesday, Jan. 16, by calling 673-6000.