Cold Spring Bond Issue Going To Voters… Again

The Board of Trustees of the Cold Spring School District authorized the issuance of a General Obligation Bond Measure for the February 5, 2008 election ballot at their meeting on Monday, September 24. Totaling $8.75 million, the bonds will be designated to fund major repairs, upgrades, and classroom construction.

A bond issue totaling over $14 million failed last year. During the public comment session, one parent lauded the board for responding to its constituency and reducing the amount sought.

The bond issue Project List includes: upgrades to outdated fire alarms, intercom systems, plumbing and electrical systems, and equipment. In addition, classrooms and classroom equipment are to be upgraded and modernized, roofs repaired, and bathrooms renovated. New flooring, cabinets, whiteboards, and learning stations will modernize the learning environments in all the classrooms. Another project on the list includes moving the school offices nearer the entrance to the school for supervisory and safety reasons. The old offices would become classrooms.

The Board plans to authorize construction of four new classrooms and an increase in the number of restrooms. Currently, there is just one restroom for girls and one for boys.

Board Trustee Darren Caesar noted that the school administration has done a good job of keeping the place clean and freshly painted, but that the infrastructure is “leaking and worn out.” One parent expressed concern that the school could have a marketing problem in convincing voters to approve the bond issue. “How can parents be convinced,” she wondered, “that the school is falling apart when it is not apparent?”

In addition to the issuance of a construction bond (if approved), Cold Spring School District officials will continue to seek all available outside funding to improve its school buildings. Many of these sources, however, require the passage of school bonds as a condition to receiving matching funds.

An Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee, along with performance and financial audits, will be set up to supervise and account for how the monies generated by the bonds will be spent. Proceeds from the bond issuance may only be used for physical improvements of the site, and only those improvements listed on the Project List may be addressed.

It was pointed out that the District was not obligated to complete everything on the list, but conversely, if a project was not on the list, bond proceeds could not be used to fund it. Meryl Winnikoff, Cold Spring School Board president, noted that, while not everything need be completed, there is an expectation that all the items on the list will at least be addressed.

One parent objected to replacing the portable classrooms with permanent ones and asked how her children’s educational experience would be enhanced by spending these millions of dollars. Mike Hieshima, clerk of the board, suggested that an updated, functional and safe environment would enhance the educational experience.

Breaking Ground at Hahn Hall

by Steven Libowitz

With raised glasses of champagne and a shout of “huzzah,” a small gathering of officials and supporters of the Music Academy of the West toasted the official groundbreaking for the new Hahn Hall Tuesday evening, September 25.

Construction on the new concert hall and rehearsal facility – being refashioned out of the 35-year-old Abravanel Hall – actually began August 13, just one day after the end of the Music Academy’s 60th Summer Festival season. But Academy staff members wanted to show board members and donors (both current and potential) how much progress had been made.

The Academy has raised about half its $15-million goal for the construction of Hahn Hall, named for Montecito resident Stephen Hahn, who donated a large sum for its construction. The new building will offer state-of-the-art acoustics and comfortable seating for the 350 audience members the new facility will accommodate.

“This is a monumental time,” said MAW president NancyBell Coe, gesturing to the hollowed-out shell of the former Abravanel behind her. “Hahn Hall will enable the next giant leap forward. I see beyond the bricks and mortar and instead see a physical manifestation of the musicians’ dreams of performing, teaching, learning and communicating with us…The space in which musicians perform,” she added, “is as much a part of the music-making as is their instrument.”

MAW board chairman James E. Davidson noted that both students and patrons of the summer music institute had found Abravanel lacking.

“There comes a point where facilities become programming,” he said, adding that each year when students were surveyed, they never failed to mention a desire for “a better space to perform and rehearse.”

Davidson announced that the Academy had recently received a challenge grant of $1 million, and that donations are beginning to increase.

“Now that all the obstacles (such as permitting) are out of the way and the buildings are going up, people are realizing that it’s actually happening,” he said. “The money is beginning to come in.”

Just on Tuesday, Davidson said, the Santa Barbara Foundation gave MAW a $140,000 grant, while board member Robert Weinman kicked in another $250,000.

Davidson stressed that while MAW is only halfway to its goal, “We’re very excited about the momentum now that construction has begun.

“If there’s anything left in the tank,” he urged, “please talk to us again.”