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Bedford school board to seek levy request input

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Roderick Hurley, Bedford Junior High School principal, laughs along with recently retired Thea Kirkwood, Monroe Road Elementary principal, as she tells a joke before a recognition of Bedford Public Schools retirees.

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TEMPERANCE — A community forum where the public can offer input on the district’s next request for a facilities levy has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 17 in the high school auditorium, Bedford Public Schools Superintendent Mark Kleinhans said at last week’s regular board meeting.

Before the meeting, the board recognized 20 district employees who are retiring this year and held a cake-and-punch reception for them.

During the meeting, Mr. Kleinhans noted again that record voter turnout for the May 6 primary election and landslide defeat was a clear rejection of the board’s request for an additional 4.37 mills that would have been used to build a new elementary school and upgrade Bedford’‍s aged buildings, most of which date to the 1950s and ’60s.

The percentages were 62.56 against the measure and 37.44 in favor of it. Turnout was more than 56 percent. A common complaint among those who voted no was that the board’‍s $70.35-million plan exceeded what the district needed.

Mr. Kleinhans said he wanted to survey community members and staffers through June 19, the last day of school, to get a feel for what was acceptable to taxpayers. “The community has said it would not support a $70-million plan,” he told the board.

Board members attributed some of the levy opposition to misinformation and hearsay. The detailed, complex plan also could be too much to assimilate in a short time. “Sometimes I think we give too much information at one time,” explained board member Dee Ellsworth.

Her colleague, Ron Koch, agreed: “Everybody out there didn’t do the research we did and didn’‍t trust us.”

In the public-comment period toward the end of the meeting, the board heard from R. LaMar Frederlck, a former Monroe County commissioner and Bedford Township supervisor.

Mr. Frederick offered his help, which Mr. Kleinhans accepted, but didn’t mince words. He told the board it had bungled the levy attempt and said its “credibility as a board has been severely diminished ... you really blew this one.”

He told the board its information “came out in bits and pieces” and bore no relevance to what it sought to accomplish. He was unimpressed by the idea of a survey.

When the Bedford Branch Library was renovated and enlarged, he explained, local volunteer experts were used to study the plans and monitor the work.

The Bedford public, he continued, did not trust the board’‍s outside consultant, Plante Moran CRESA of Southfield, Mich., however competent it was.

“You have to convince people in this community that this is the right path,” Mr. Frederick said.

Contact Carl Ryan at: carlryan@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.

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