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It’s For The Kids

By Staff | Aug 21, 2015

A house that purchased by the Rugby Public School District was razed recently. The property will be used as an extra playground.

Last week we posted a video on the Pierce County Tribune’s Facebook page. It was a video of the razing of the blue house on 3rd and 3rd across the street from Ely Elementary School. We posted the video because we thought it was an interesting little tidbit and really put no more thought into it. The property was purchased by the Rugby Public School District last fall and the assumption was made that all questions of the purchase of the property and its proposed use would have been asked and answered.

Well that assumption was incorrect, which we soon discovered when looking at the comments made on that particular post. The comments and attention it received educated us that maybe all the questions that you, the taxpayers of Pierce County, want answered haven’t been. We took your lead and contacted Superintendent Michael McNeff. He was very accessible and was anxious to answer any questions concerning the purchases of the property and why they are choosing to use the property as a field for an extra playground rather than use the property for extra parking that is also in very short supply.

The property in question was purchased last fall in the amount of $77,000. Payments are scheduled over three years and will come out of the District’s Building Fund. The first payment will be due in October. The estimated cost for demolition was $13,000. There will be no increases in taxes as the result of the purchase, demolition or for any planned improvements to be made to the property.

The lot size, per the city clerk’s office, is 62.5 feet wide by 140 feet deep, and there is an open alley at the back of the property. The property behind the property, but not contiguous because of the alley, is also owned by the school and they use it for bike racks.

With a downtown location the Ely property is landlocked, with limited play area outside for the children. That play area is all asphalt and that is a major concern. There is also limited parking, with only street parking as the main source of parking for the school and that too is a concern.

We reached out to a parking lot developer we know in Florida and he estimated that given the lot sixe, the setbacks, lanes, turning radius, the cut-ins needed that the lot would yield approximately 12-16 parking spaces.

We posed the questions of taxpayer money and best use for the property to McNeff. As it pertains to taxpayers’ money, he explained that anytime someone is in the position of spending tax dollars it is prudent on them to take that responsibility seriously as he does, being a taxpayer in the district himself. McNeff said, “You always try to figure out the best way how to spend tax payers money. You always have the tax payers in mind, obviously it is their tax money.” He continued, “Sometimes you have to look at opportunity though as it arises. Futuristically, you have to look at that and do what is best not just for the school but for the children.”

McNeff looks at this as a reformat of the existing plan. The current situation with space and the dangers of an all asphalt playground for the children is untenable. With enrollment up (315 Kids K-6), there just isn’t enough room. By expanding the playground – using the lot across the street in conjunction with the current playground, which they do use in winter – they will have more room. Having an extra field will give the kids a place to play where they won’t scuff their faces, break their arms or scrape their knees when they fall on an asphalt playground. McNeff said, “It gives us some extra space that is just better for the kids.” He also emphasized that they will not need any additional staff with the extended playground; they will be able to use the staff they have using current resources at no extra cost.

We asked McNeff if he considered using the lot for extra parking. He said, “Certainly parking is an issue, but we are limited. The location is what it is. I just see a higher need for something that is beneficial for the kids, having space for the kids is just more important.” He continued, “I am looking out for what is best for kids and right now that is having a field that is not asphalt for them to play on is what is important.” He concluded, “You are always looking how to better the district long-term. Down the road we might feel it can be better used in another capacity. By buying the lot we will have that option. Why the playground now? I just want what’s best for the kids.”

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