CVTC to take $12 million bond issue to voters
By Ray Dyer
Voters will go to the polls on April 1 to decide a $12 million bond issue intended to help with the reconstruction of the El Reno campus of the Canadian Valley Technology Center. The Career Tech district takes in Canadian County as well as Grady County.
Dr. Greg Winters, superintendent of Canadian Valley, said the bond issue is necessary to cover expenses not covered by insurance. Much of the Canadian Valley El Reno campus was destroyed by the EF-5 tornado that tore across Canadian County May 31. Nine people died in the massive storm. None of the fatalities occurred at the technology center where a number of students and faculty took shelter.
After the storm, Winters said the school would be open by Aug. 15 for the start of the school year. Some “19 to 20” programs and 130 employees, as well as students, were relocated to sites scattered about Yukon, and Winters said the Chamber of Commerce there has been “wining and dining us. They are playing all their cards,” he said.
Winters made the comments at a recent community coffee put on by the El Reno Chamber of Commerce. Also addressing the audience was Redlands Community College President Jack Bryant and El Reno Public Schools Superintendent Craig McVay.
Winters said while the response from Yukon has been very much appreciated, he eased El Reno concerns when he told the audience, “We’re coming home,” meaning a complete return to the El Reno campus. The statement drew immediate applause.
Seven of the nine buildings on the El Reno campus were destroyed by the twister. Winters said the design of the new building will put all programs under one roof. It will cost approximately $44.7 million to rebuild the campus, with $32.6 million of that coming from insurance.
Winters said the $12 million bond issue would be paid out over 10 years, meaning taxes on a $100,000 home would go up “about 90 cents a month.
“You will spend more for a cup of coffee than this will cost,” Winters said. He told the audience Canadian Valley has called El Reno home for “43 years” and with support for the bond issue, “we’ll be here for another 40 years.”
The new building will be built to “modern code,” and Winters said safe rooms will be included in the new construction. The safe rooms will accommodate more than 1,200 people, he said.
Unlike common education that requires a 60 percent approval, a bond issue for the Career Tech system requires a simple majority of “50 percent, plus 1.”
Bryant, recently named president at RCC after serving in that capacity on an interim basis, said the school will need more than $2 million to make repairs caused by the same storm system that hit Canadian Valley. Bryant said most damage was to roofs and heat and air systems.
Bryant drew applause when he said by the end of the fiscal year in June, RCC, with the exception of three structured payments, will be debt-free.
Bryant stepped into the role as president after longtime president Larry Devane was forced to resign. Devane stepped down last year after it was learned the two-year school had not paid more than $1 million in bills and had also failed to collect on some $1.8 million in back tuition. Those findings came from an audit of the college ordered by Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
Bryant praised the RCC staff, saying there are “great people who love the college working at Redlands.”
Redlands, Bryant said, has created a new revenue stream by providing remedial math programs for the University of Oklahoma. He said one-third of the OU students taking online math courses through RCC are athletes and the OU Athletic Department reported its student scores have improved through the RCC programs.
Bryant said the transition to get the school back on sound financial footing has been painful. There have been some staff reductions and some programs cut. He said the moves are helping move the school in the right direction and that enrollment is “trending up.”
Bryant said the school intends to partner with resources in the area, specifically mentioning the agriculture research being done by the USDA at Fort Reno. Redlands students have been able to work with staff at Fort Reno on research programs that have added great value to the RCC experience, Bryant said.
McVay also touched on storm damage caused by the May 31 event and said by the time all is said and done, the total will approach $10 million. He said insurance and school officials will soon meet to finalize the matters.
While El Reno schools did not take a direct hit from the tornado, extensive damage was caused by “hail, wind and water,” McVay said. He said the winds “sucked the roofs” up, causing “much greater damage” than was originally thought.
McVay vowed that El Reno schoolchildren will be protected by in-ground storm shelters, once construction projects are completed. McVay said safe rooms are fine, but added, “You can’t survive an F5 if you are above ground.” McVay said, according to FEMA, El Reno will be the only school district in the nation with in-ground storm shelters available for every student.