If you have been near the F St. bridge over the past two days you should have noticed the improvements to the river park is underway. This is a continuation of a project started in 2000 largely driven by the energy of Mike Harvey with the support of many private and public groups. The water park improvements must be complete by the end of March. Also included in this project are improvements to the playground in Riverside Park and bathrooms at the boat ramp. This project is funded by a large grant that is matched by the City at roughly a 3:1 ratio with a cost of over $200,000..
This week the contractor that is replacing the hot water line to the Hot Springs Pool has started up. This project has a completion date of May 28th. The replacement of the Hot Springs Pool water line is funded by a Department of Local Affairs Mineral Impact Grant. It works out to an approximate 1:1 match/funding ratio. The total amount of funding is over $800,000 with the largest portion going to the pipeline replacement.
The various Chaffee County and City of Salida Departments have started the move into the remodeled and updated Touber Building. This is a project funded with a large 1.7 million dollar DOLA grant and other grants including the recently approved State Historic Preservation Grant that focuses on the exterior of the older part of the building. There are other funding sources for this project. The staff of both Chaffee County and City deserve tremendous credit for attaining such a high amount of grant money at a time that grant competition is so fierce.
It is an understatement to say that all eyes are on our school system. The School Board has its hands full having to deal with significant cuts in their budget while also moving into a search for a new Superintendent. I have empathy for the effort. The City of Salida’s City Council and staff are acutely aware of the possibility of our being in the same revenue shortage boat as the school system. It is not easy to determine how any entity deals with reducing expenditures. My hat is off to the School Board of R-32-J for making difficult decisions that not only ruffle feathers but have serious and real impacts on people’s lives. T
The superintendent search is also challenging. In the past four years the City has had, including interims, six city administrators. There have been various types of searches used. I am of the opinion it was the last search, professionally managed by Interim City Administrator Mike Copp, that was the only search that found someone capable of handling the many aspects of city administration. I support the school system’s search efforts and believe that the best chance of success is being as professional and inclusionary as possible. Within the limits of propriety and the law, the School Board has committed to a transparent process that offers any citizen an opportunity to get involved. If you have questions regarding the process, I respectfully request you step up by joining one of the citizen superintendent search committees.
On Wednesday March 3rd, I had the chance to meet with a large group of R-32-J employees in the Middle School Library. As I have expressed many times, I believe education is the ultimate form of economic development. I see the education of our population as a benefit to all of us. While there are many obvious economic pluses to our community as the quality of our educational opportunities increase locally, I also see education offering a chance to create a more mature, imaginative and productive citizen for our country. In my mind the true citizen patriot is the person that takes the time to really understand both sides of an issue. The true citizen then comes to their own conclusion based upon their background and beliefs. The challenge these days is not the amount of information regarding our major issues but sorting out that information. It takes someone that has the education to see through the weak arguments and can grasp what information has value and what is mere propaganda. This takes a solid educational background.
The disparate perceptions of R-32-J regarding the quality of education offered is amazing. Speaking with the teachers I learned that the Salida School District scores above other local districts in ACT and CSAP scores. A short list of recent school accomplishments are a first place in the “Math Counts” competition and a large number of students qualifying for Honor Band. Salida is an annual competitor with excellent results in Science Fair Competitions. The High School Auto Mechanic class consistently wins or places top three in state level competition. Physics students and the members of the Auto Shop class completed one alternative energy car last year and are now working on a more difficult alternative energy auto. These are accomplishments of a dedicated staff and an engaged student body. They deserve our support.
Yes, improved education will cost money. To my mind it is the best investment for our town, state and country. As difficult as decisions are to make today, they will not get easier tomorrow. To handle the new technologies and the avalanche of information that bombards us daily demands a better education than any of us had.
When we understand what a dedicated and idealistic group of teachers we have and what an amazing job they are doing with limited resources, imagine what they might do with safe, secure, quality buildings and adequate funding. The kids of today will create the energy to get things done tomorrow. It is the best investment we can make.