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Kenmare school bond issue fails...

When the vote totals were tallied March 17 after the Kenmare School District bond issue, school board members quietly left the building and went home.

3/24/20 (Tue)

When the vote totals were tallied March 17 after the Kenmare School District bond issue, school board members quietly left the building and went home.

The vote total was unofficial, but the writing was on the wall. A total of 818 people voted with 52 percent of voters in favor of the bond issue. It needed 60 percent to pass.

As of Thursday, a number of absentee ballots hadn’t yet been counted, but school board President Blaine Huff said it won’t be enough to change the outcome.

“Every time we’ve done this, we won but we lost,” Huff said. “We’re one of only seven states that need 60 percent. Each time, we were over 50 percent.”

Previous votes were taken in November 2013 and January 2019.

“I was happy with the amount of people who voted,” Huff said. “Regardless of the outcome, I’m just happy that many people voted.”

According to Huff, the 60 percent mandate has to change and he said the next time he meets with legislators, he will bring up the subject.

As a matter of fact, Huff and Superintendent Dr. Tim Godfrey attended a recent Legacy Fund meeting in Watford City in which Williston interim Superintendent Beth Zietz brought up Williston’s narrow defeat of several bond measures.

“One of the legislators scolded her for not having enough voters,” Huff said. “I just hope they can find a better way. We got the number of people to vote. Now, what can they do for us.”

In addition, he said now that the Federal Reserve dropped the interest rat to near zero, you can’t get any better than that when it comes to borrowing money.

Huff said there more than 100 people at that meeting in Watford City representing a good cross section of North Dakota.

“Tourism, nursing, carbon capture, they all wanted to talk,” he said. “But if we don’t have schools to educate them, we won’t have those industries either.”

Right now, the board doesn’t have a plan B. There have been some superficial discussions about what might happen, but the board hasn’t acted on anything.

“We’re going to try to figure things out,” Huff said. “We haven’t because we didn’t know what would happen. There’s no use wasting time on something if you don’t know what’s going to happen next. We’ll have future meetings to discuss this.”

Huff called the vote unfortunate and he was disappointed that so many people in the community were not in favor of making the school more efficient.

He didn’t blame the stock market crash for the failure. Instead, he said there is a lot of uncertainty in farming and ranching, which may have been a factor.

He said obviously the coronavirus wasn’t a factor because the vote total was the highest of all three bond issues.

“We were promoting people to vote that’s all,” Huff said. “We can’t tell them to vote yes, but we can promote them to vote. I guess if we build a dog house, it’s going to cost too much.”

Going forward, it’s like the old saying, according to Huff, it’s back to the drawing board. And that will have an impact on the elementary school.

“The soonest end game was 2021,” he said. “We don’t want to put any more money into it. It’s a money pit. We will keep it as long as we can, but we have to get out of there.”

He added, now the board members are going to have to sharpen their pencils. He said the board has been talking about abandoning the elementary school for the past 20 years and it’s still open, but it’s costing a lot of money.

On a side note, Huff said he wanted to publicly thank the four ladies who spent the entire, 12-hour day at the receiving table, looking at ID’s, logging information and providing ballots.

“I want to give those ladies a huge thank you,” Huff said. “They were busy all day long and didn’t have time to count the absentee ballots until after the poll closed. I commend them for their effort. They put in a long day.”

The four poll workers were Laura Williams, Missy Harris, Nicole Cattin and Steph Lotvedt.

For Dr. Tim Godfrey, the feeling was the same as for Huff, he was pleased with the number of voters regardless of the outcome.

However, he was disappointed in the outcome and said everyone on the board and in the administration is trying to feel it out right now.

He said COVID-19 has shocked everybody and many people are worried about the economy, so it could have been a combination of both items that may have led to the defeat.

“It’s OK, because now I can focus on educating kids,” Godfrey said. “The board is still on board to close the elementary school in 2021 so we have time to make it work, but it’s all up in the air.”

According to Godfrey, this may have been the perfect storm. A free-falling stock market, commodity prices in a glut and a pandemic that has forced schools across North Dakota to close.

When you analyze those details, it’s enough to instill fear in just about anybody. But for Godfrey, he’s intrigued now that he’s had some sleep and he is going to make lemonade out of the lemon that was a failed bond issue.

“Regardless of how we go, we will still have learning opportunities for kids,” We still have time to make this work.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!