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Published: Tuesday, 3/23/2010

Otsego board holds firm

TONTOGANY - A divided Otsego board of education Monday night reaffirmed its commitment to build a single school building in Tontogany to replace three elementaries in Grand Rapids, Haskins, and Weston.

The 3-2 vote was taken at a special meeting called by new board President Mark Tolles, who had moved earlier this month to stop the $40 million building project.

He and Judy Snyder, who also joined the board Jan. 1, voted against proceeding with construction.

The state will pay 55 percent of the cost.

The measure was approved by Jamie Harter, Elizabeth Gorski, and Brad Anderson, the third new board of education member who was considered the swing vote, Superintendent Jim Garber said.

Approximately 175 district residents attended last night's meeting in the junior high, and nearly all of them supported the plan to build a unified campus, Mr. Garber said.

The 3-2 vote to reaffirm the plan included three motions to accept the state's assistance plan, designate a half-mill for permanent improvements on the new building, and accept state requirements on the building's size.

Construction has not begun, but the district has taken out a $4 million loan, hired an architectural firm and construction manager, and begun the design.

In 2004, voters approved a bond issue to build a high school using the Ohio School Facilities Commission's expedited program.

The district paid up front the local share of $26 million and was to get a $14 million credit when it went ahead with the second phase of the project, an overhaul of the three primary schools.

The board voted unanimously last summer to build in Tontogany without seeking new tax funds.

It instead will rely on savings from closing the old schools to pay the district's $4 million share.

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