Recall concerns district officials | AspenTimes.com

Recall concerns district officials

John Colson

Officials of the Roaring Fork School District at one point seemingly believed they had nothing to worry about from a looming recall election.Even if voters were to recall school board President Susan Hakanson and Vice President Bruce Wampler, a board member told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent newspaper in July, the district’s building program, using $86 million in recently sold bonds, would go ahead.But now, at least some school officials are worried that the recall campaign is gathering steam and that, if successful in putting two newcomers on the board, the whole $86 million construction plan, which includes facilities in Glenwood, Carbondale and Basalt, could be in trouble.”Absolutely,” Superintendent Fred Wall said. “I think that it [the construction plan] could be undermined or changed.”Recall organizer Jennifer Vanian has claimed the school district did not clearly spell out its plans to buy the land underneath the True Value Hardware store on Grand Avenue to make room for an expanded Glenwood Springs High School. She maintains the town needs the hardware store for its tax revenues and its proximity to many of the town’s neighborhoods.She is now collecting signatures on petitions around the district and hopes to have the recall on the November ballot. According to Garfield County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf, Vanian has until Aug. 29 to submit 1,324 valid signatures for Wampler, and 1,856 for Hakanson.School district officials have steadfastly maintained that the terms of the expansion plan were spelled out during a long string of public meetings and that while the ballot did not specifically spell out the impending termination of True Value, voters knew what they were voting on.Wall noted that the bonds have been sold and that “we have the money in our bank account” awaiting final drafts of site plans and architectural plans for new or expanded school facilities in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.Wall said any delays that might result from an internal squabble among board members could mean the district would not have enough money to compete all the projects.”We’re on a really tight schedule,” he said, explaining that there is no cushion in the $86 million budget for inflationary increases in building costs.Assistant Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said the board is “obligated, legally, to do what you said you’d do with that bond.” But, she conceded, because the ballot question did not specifically name the True Value property, it is possible that, for example, the board could re-examine the Glenwood Springs High School project and change it. But, in order to do that, Haptonstall said, the two new board members “would have to convince a third to go along” in order to achieve a majority on the five-member board.Other aspects of the $86 million building plan, which includes new and expanded facilities in Carbondale and Basalt, would not be directly affected by disruption to the Glenwood Springs High School project, officials said.But a protracted battle over the Glenwood Springs component of the larger building schedule might cause delays across the district, Haptonstall said. As a result, she said, costs could rise to a point where the district would not have the money it needs to get its projects done.She said the district is “moving ahead at the rate we always were,” regardless of the recall effort.She said plans now call for breaking ground on the Glenwood Springs High School expansion in January, and “I think ultimately that school will be built the way it was promised.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com