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KTEC on fast track

by Brian Walker
| December 27, 2010 8:00 PM

It's full speed ahead for the Kootenai Technical Education Campus.

The Post Falls, Coeur d'Alene and Lakeland school districts, along with their business partners, are proceeding ahead with the professional-technical high school on the Rathdrum Prairie as if a planned bill expediting the construction will pass in the upcoming Legislature.

"We are hoping the construction timeline can be moved up (to 2011 instead of 2012) if the legislation is changed to allow us to start construction before we collect all the money" said Post Falls Superintendent Jerry Keane, who is helping shepherd the project. "We've decided that we are going to operate for now as if the legislation is going to be changed.

"We are moving forward with our design and programming work on a fast track schedule."

Voters in the three school districts in August approved financing to construct the $9.5 million school at the southwest corner of Lancaster and Meyer roads in Rathdrum.

The school will offer classes in skilled trades such as health occupations, welding, construction and automotive to juniors and seniors in the three districts. The need for such learning opportunities already exists and businesses are eager for the school to open, Keane said.

"The goal is to be able to open the KTEC facility in the fall of 2012 rather than 2013," Keane said.

The KTEC governing board recently approved a contract with architect Longwell and Trapp Associates of Hayden for $604,700 for the project. The firm was selected through a bid process last year and has been working on the project.

"Because of the way the law works related to architects for schools, an architect is selected and then you work out the details of the contract," Keane said. "We put the work on a contract on hold until the election was complete before working on the detail of the contract."

The KTEC committee in January plans to bring in professional-technical instructors and local business experts to work with the architect to provide specific input related to each of the trade spaces that will be constructed.

Other recent developments with the project include Dean Haagenson, CEO of Contractors Northwest, filling the governing board seat formerly occupied by Paul Anderson and Lakeland taking over for Post Falls as the fiscal agent for KTEC.

"Dean's commitment and expertise will be invaluable as we move forward," Keane said.

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, plans to float a bill that would allow construction to start a year earlier than anticipated without additional cost to taxpayers.

Goedde co-sponsored a bill passed in 2009 that allows cooperative service agencies - in this case the school districts - to run school plant facility levies to construct facilities. The bill said the agencies could not break ground until all the money was in the bank.

The amendment would allow construction to start sooner as long as there's no interest being paid on a loan.

As it stands, all preliminary work, including architectural and engineering, can be completed without all the property tax funding obtained.

The bill, if passed, would also allow the KTEC group to take advantage of an optimal time to build when materials and labor are cheaper, proponents say.

The tax dollars for the project will be received by the districts twice a year, in January and July of 2011, and in the same months in 2012. The funds can only be used for construction.

The owner of a $200,000 home in the Coeur d'Alene School District will see a property tax bill increase of about $35 per year for two years.

That same home in the Post Falls district will not see an increase because an existing levy expired. However, if the levy would have failed, the owner of an average home would have had about $55 less in taxes a year for two years.

In the Lakeland School District, that homeowner's property tax bill will be about $50 more for each of the next two years.

North Idaho College is planning to build its own $35.4 million professional-technical facility in two phases on property it owns adjacent to the high school site.

The first $20.5 million phase has been submitted to Idaho's Department of Public Works as a capital budget request for 2013, and is No. 2 on NIC's building priority list behind the joint-use building planned on the education corridor adjacent to the Coeur d'Alene campus.

The second phase is on the college's capital request list for 2017, although the first phase will be fully operational without the second phase.

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