Voters OK $37 million bond request

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Kindergarten students play musical instruments in an entryway that has been converted into a temporary classroom at Ruder Elementary School in Columbia Falls on Wednesday, Sept. 11. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

Columbia Falls voters narrowly approved a $37 million bond issue by a matter of 97 votes on Tuesday.

According to preliminary results, 1,892 voted for the bond issue and 1,795 against. Voter turnout in the mail-ballot election was 41%.

The bond issue will fund a new building to replace an aging Glacier Gateway Elementary, and a renovation and expansion of Ruder Elementary where space is an issue.

Annual taxes will increase by about $145.92 for owners of homes with a market value of $200,000. The duration of the bond is 20 years.

About $24.4 million in bonds are slated for building the new elementary school to replace Glacier Gateway. Additionally, the north wing of the existing Glacier Gateway building will be demolished, while a gymnasium located off the main entrance will be retained and remodeled. A two-story section of the elementary school, referred to as “the old junior high,” will be buttoned up. It hasn’t been determined what it might be used for in the future.

The district estimates spending $10.2 million on renovating and expanding Ruder Elementary to encompass a new main office/entrance, classrooms, resource rooms, a dining commons and a music room, among other items.

Each building project is being designed to accommodate 644 students.

Money raised by the bonds will also be spent remodeling the entrance of Columbia Falls Junior High to improve security. New playing fields would be created in a stretch of land between the junior high and Ruder.

Columbia Falls School District Superintendent Steve Bradshaw said the next steps will be choosing a project delivery method and hiring a contractor.

He said the district will continue working with architects L’Heureux Page Werner in refining the design of both buildings.

“There’s a lot of work to be done on what it is that we actually want -- where everything presented before were conceptual designs,” Bradshaw said.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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