As the new Junction City High School moves closer to completion and a ribbon-cutting date is set, school district officials are making plans for the 30-acre lot of the existing one on Eisenhower Drive. Both schools were subjects of discussion at Monday’s USD 4575 board meeting.
Kendall Schoenrock presented the board with a concept for using the land, which includes adding a swimming pool and potentially a spot for a new public library.
“I think this presents us a really neat opportunity for a community use zone,” he said. “The crux of the proposal is a full demolition of the high school and turning that area into green field with two future potential development sites to the south.”
His concept is for the Dorothy Bramlage public library, which has been actively looking to expand, the first right of refusal for use of the southeast five acres. In the southwest five acres Schoenrock envisions a joint use facility with a swimming pool developed in a joint effort among the city, the school district and possibly the YMCA.
Tagging onto the sports complex idea that various groups have floated in Junction City for decades, he said there is space for youth soccer, football and potentially baseball. This is where they can pull the county in as another partner.
“The county also has some budget set aside … for a sports complex through the 1% hotel bed tax,” he said. “This would be something where I could potentially see asking the county for assistance. We can hold events that bring people to community, put them in hotels, let them stay overnight. The use of the hotel guest tax is … for outside visitors to come to town overnight and stay. “
Several years ago, the Geary County Convention and Visitors Bureau increased the transient guest tax by 1% with the additional funds earmarked for a sports complex. The complex never materialized but the county continues to collect the additional tax, which is set aside in a special projects fund.
“I think as a community, one of the things that we should be asking our county commissioners to do is to ensure that they're maintaining fiscal responsibility when it comes to that 1%,” he said. “I hope that … this would qualify (as a special project) as it’s the closest thing that our community will get to a sports complex.”
Schoenrock told school board members that he plans to visit with county commissioners after the holidays and hopefully bring them into the conversations. City commissioners discussed his proposal in executive session on Nov. 3 and Schoenrock said while the commission made no decisions at that time, he left with the impression were interested in exploring the project’s potential.
As discussions begin about what to do with the old school site, David Wild, USD 475 Chief Operations Officer, brought board members up to date on the plans to open the new school.
“There was a bit of relief when I was preparing these slides last Monday,” he said as he started his presentation. “I was beginning to recognize we're approaching the end and there was a bit of relief in that. I want to assure the board that this project is on schedule.”
Construction on the new building passed the halfway point several weeks ago and the completion is in sight. Wild has set the date of Friday, August 6 for the grand opening ribbon cutting event.
“The intent is to get our national elected officials back for that event,” he said. “I’m working on an early afternoon event for the ribbon cutting and then an open house that Friday for the community to come and take tours and walk through. Then, open again on Saturday morning for a very similar thing, let people come in and … and see what it is that the district has finalized.”
As the district slides into the final months before completion, Wild said he spoke with city officials about receiving beneficial occupancy of areas of the school as it completed.
“That way we can start staging equipment and furnishings inside,” he said. “That can start as early as probably February.”