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November 7, 2014     Hidalgo County Herald
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6 HIDALGO COUNTY HERALD FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2014 Preservation News LHS athletes help local cancer patients The LHS Athletic Department held a fundraiser entitled "No One Fights Alone", inspired by former LMS faculty member Christina Antillon, who lost her battle with cancer earlier this year. According to Athletic Director Armando Rosales, "the goal is to teach our student athletes to give back to the community while also promoting cancer awareness." The student athletes raised money and pre- sented two $1,000 gifts to local cancer patients Judy Lechner (above with her family) and Theresa Duran (below with the Antillon Family). Presenting the gifts to the two women were Christina Salinas, Lisa Antillon, and Pepper Salinas on behalf of Christina Antillon. Courtesy photos Fast Approval Build Your Credit Checking Account Needed No Hassles Call Us Today/ Apply in person on coil ahead! Call today/ 575-542- 0 Citizens save their Source: A Community Guide to Saving Older Schools by Kerri Rubman (A National Trust for His- toric Preservation publication) Atchison Middle School, Atchison, Kansas Atchison, Kansas, a town of about 10,000 on the Missouri River with many 19 th century homes, still offers small-town charm. But the character of the town is changing. In 1994, the school district closed five older neighborhood elementary schools and began bussing students to a large, new consolidated school at the edge of town. A 1970s high school and a vocational-technical school are within a block of the new elemen- tary school. Joan Adam recalls: "Some of us objected to building a new school at the time, but there was a well-managed campaign for it and the proposal was popular, so not real opposition took hold." Then, starting around 1998, the local newspaper began men- tioning the school board's long- term plans to abandon the Atchison Middle School (AMS) in town (originally built as a high school in 1908), turn the current high school into a middle school, and build a new high school in the same out-of-town area. This time, citizens like Joan Adam were not going to just sit by and let it happen. Adam, chair of the Atchison Preservation Al- liance and a member of the Na- tional Trust Board of Advisors, was one of those concerned about keeping the town's older build- ings in use and its downtown vi- brant. Others,aw the proposal as too costly, inevitably leading to higher taxes, and financially ir- responsible, especially while the town was still paying off its bonds for the elementary and for a new jail. A handful of citizens began meeting privately. They also made several presentations before the school board encouraging it to keep the current schools in their present use. But in Otober 1999, the school board proposed a $27 million bond, issue,.to go to a public vote in April, which was primarii devoted to-build- ing a new high school and reno- vating the current high school for use as a middle School. The core group of citizens formed an organization called the 3Rs--Residents for Rational Renovation--to come out pub- licly against the proposal. In its first press release, the group ex- plained that it had presented al- ternatives to new construction to the school board and now wanted to make that information avail- able to the public. Members of the group visited other schools that had been reno- vated successfully and issued more press releases describing these as useful models for Atchison. The group also applied for and received a $3,000 grant from the National Trust's Preser- vation Services Fund to hire an architect to study the feasibility of renovations over new con- struction. From that point on, much of the battle between those for and against the bond issue took place in the media. Supporters of the school bond "were very well or- neighborhood schools (part one) ganized and seemed to have a bottomless pit of money," Adam says. That faction organized as "Citizens for Kids." Representa- fives from both sides flooded the Atchison Daily Globe with letters to the editor and wrote opinion columns for its editorial page. The local radio station also hosted an on-air forum on the is- sue. Adam adds: "We were fortu- nate that the newspaper handled the issue fairly. I would advise [others engaged in a similar con- flict] to go to their local editors early on to talk about the issue, tell their side, and attempt to get the media's support, or at least a promise of fairness." The 3Rs took every oppor- tunity to challenge public state- ments by the opposition and to take advantage of its mistakes. For example, literature by Citi- zens for Kids claimed that the bond issue was modest, adding an average of less than $10 per month to property taxes. The 3Rs answered with data showing how this amount would burden senior citizens and others on fixed in- comes, in a town where 43 per- cent of residents had annual household incomes of under $30,000. Other examples: Supporters of the bond issue encouraged voters to approve it by telling them that the state would subsi- dize about one-third of the cost of new school construction. It was up to the 3Rs to point out that a similar state subsidy was available for renovations. In additiori, the newspaper had asked both groups to provide lists of their contributors and the amounts given. The 3Rs--which had mainly received donations of about $25 to $I00 from local citi- zens-submitted this information right away. When Citizens for Kids balked, the 3Rs wrote a newspaper column questioning why. Could it be that the group was funded by people with a fi- nancial interest in the new con- struction, including people who that renovation of AMS and the high school would cost a total of $12.435 million ($6.635 million and $5.8 million respectively). The resulting newspaper article announced, "AMS rehab would save millions." The 3Rs also reminded vot- ers that the school board had made no plans for the future use of AMS, and that it had a poor track record of looking after its surplus buildings. Three of the five elementary schools aban- doned for the new elementary school remained empty. When one of these was demolished dur- ing the campaign for the bond issues, it unleashed an emotional response from those who did not want to see another of the town's grand old school buildings razed or left to deteriorate. In the final days before the election, yarff signs sprung up around town for both sides. Un- like their opponents', the yard signs of the 3Rs were homemade, reinforcing the point that they were ordinary citizens fighting against a well-funded, well-orga- nized block backed by the school system. Adam adds: "By this time we realized people wanted to be 'for' something rather against, so we used on our signs and in our letters the slogan: 'For a better solution, vote no.'" On Tuesday, April 4, 2000, some 3,500 people--53 percent of registered voters--showed up at the polls--a remarkable turn- out considering that the bond is- sue was the only item on the bal- lot. The bond issue was defeated by an 85 percent vote! The school board is now be- ing encouraged to form a new committee to make plans to reno- vate the two schools, following the wishes of the electorate. Adam sees this as a chance to make a fundamental change in the way the school board does business: "This time, we want to have com- munity-wide meetings and focus groups, so that the decisions will be from the ground up, not from the top down as they were be- fore.". c,,o.t pay tax e, s in Atctfis9n ? ..... The school board had regu- larly Cited a previous stud3/that claimed Atchison Middle School did not meet current fire safety and ADA standards, and that needed renovation would cost $8.454 million. But the new study the 3Rs commissioned found: "These issues can be re- solved at little cost. Improve- ments would include a new eleva- tor, enclosing the existing stair- ways with fire rated construction and creating areas of evacuation assistance?' That report estimated Note from Edmund Saucedo: Atchison, Kansas s not the 'only community affected by senseless demolition of historic school buildings. Take a look at what's going on at the Lordsburg Mu- nicipal Schools. School admin- istrations are slow learners on seeing the potential of building re-use. They know creativity when they see kids' watercolors taped up an classroom walls, but it takes a lot of remedial education for them to see creativity in how to re-use buildings. HIDALGO COt00T Thank you to all Hidalgo County voters who supported me in the recent Election. I am honored and privileged to serve as your Probate Judge. Thank you, also, to those who allowed me to have my campaign signs on your property. Carmen Aeosta Know someone who could use a Sentimental Surprise? We have a wide variety of JU8T00BECAUOE -Floral &rangements & Oiftsl -- As us about our Lordsburg! 214 E. MO1EL DRIVE IN LORDSBURG