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McCook Central voters approve new school

SALEM — Nearly three-fourths of eligible voters on Tuesday supported building a new, $7.1 million school in McCook Central School District.

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Residents of the district decided on the measure during an election Tuesday, but complete results were not totaled until early Wednesday morning.

McCook Central Superintendent Dan Swartos said strong voter turnout slowed the process because all votes were counted by hand. In the election, 547 votes supported the measure and 190 were against. There were a total of 737 votes cast, totaling 74 percent in favor of the new school. Because it was a bond issue, the vote needed 60 percent of voters to be in favor of the project. Turnout in the election was at 49 percent.

"I think everyone here at the school worked hard and put together a good package in being able to show why this would be a good thing for our district, and why this will benefit our community in the long run," Swartos said.

Construction on the combined high school and middle school could begin next spring, as the district hopes to build new band and choir classrooms and new locker rooms in an initial phase. The new facility will be built at the current school site in Salem.

New high school construction could begin in 2016. The school plans to build a new two-story high school and middle school that would be more accessible that the current building. Plans for the project include new concession and restroom areas near the gym, a new weight room and special education rooms, along with a commons area to host band and choir performances that will seat up to 500 people.

Classes will be moved to other community facilities during construction and students could begin to use the new facility in the 2016-17 school year.

Swartos said updated facilities are necessary to attract young families to live in the district. He said community groups that toured the school's current 90-year-old facility agreed.

"It's hard for us to capitalize on getting young families to live here when we don't have the facilities that they're looking for," he said.

Using the current building any longer could have put the district at risk of being condemned, Swartos said.

The measure allows the school to raise up to $2.99 million in bonds over 20 years, or about 40 percent of the total cost. Existing capital outlay funds of about $4.25 million would be used to cover the remaining costs.

"A very large margin of the voters have supported the measure," Swartos said. "People are ready for the project and we're excited to get moving on it."

The school district also had an election for three positions on the school board. Voters returned two incumbents. David Eichacker led all vote-getters with 531 votes, while Joni Wagner and newcomer Kurt Stiefvater also won seats with 519 and 433 votes, respectively. Current board member Peggy Butzke lost in her bid for re-election with 345 votes.