Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Committee Picks Goose Bay Elementary Site

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Thursday, June 29, 2006

PALMER - For now, the existing Goose Bay Elementary site is the favored site for a new school in the fast-growing area. The two-school site would be similar to the neighboring Sherrod and Swanson schools in Palmer.

Today the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Area School Site Selection Committee voted three-to-one to give the Goose Bay Elementary site the highest priority for the new school, followed in second by donated land at Settlers Bay. A third site at mile six Knik-Goose Bay Road, which was originally planned for a fire training facility, was dropped from consideration by the Committee.

This selection is a first step. Borough staff will forward the Committee's recommendation to the Planning Commission, School Board, and Assembly.

Assemblywoman Cindy Bettine, represents the Knik-Goose Bay area. "The land donation from developer Chuck Spinelli was a generous donation, the first of its kind in decades. We do thank him for it. But the prudent thing to do is to take the site that costs the taxpayers the least amount of money, and that site is next to Goose Bay Elementary."

In a special election in May, MAT-SU voters approved $39.7 million in bonds to build two new schools, one of them in likely the fastest growing spot in the state. In a recent four-year period the Knik-Fairview area grew by 31 percent. Next fall some 650 students are expected to enroll at Goose Bay Elementary. The school already reached the capacity it was built for at 432 students. Five portables are at the site with another portable going in soon.

The goal is to have a new elementary school by fall 2007. The timeline to achieve this makes it imperative to select a site by no later than June 2006. The amount budgeted for site development costs for the school is $1.2 million.

The existing Goose Bay Elementary is located near W. Hollywood Road and S. Vine Road. Site development is estimated at $745,250.

The Settlers Bay site is located near the intersection of Knik-Goose Bay Road and Settlers Bay Drive on 13 acres. The estimated cost of the construction of two access roads and extending the utilities is $2.8 million. A cost sharing agreement between the developer and the Borough would have reduced the Borough's cost to $1.4 million, but that agreement was not resolved and was still higher than the amount budgeted.

Assemblyman Jim Colver, chair of the Committee, said the Goose Bay site rightly scored the highest. "It was the best available site we had. It meets the time frame, has the best site conditions as far as access, soils, and utilities on site," Colver said.

Colver added that all the sites considered are within a mile and a half of each other. "The Borough was very appreciative of the donated site at Settlers Bay. We pursued it and wanted it to work out, but unfortunately a financial agreement was left unresolved as to sharing the cost of extending and maintaining the utilities. It is in the public interest that we move forward with the Goose Bay site."

The Borough is planning to put out a request for a proposal to design/build in July and possibly get construction underway by fall.

Bettine has asked that the Borough make more specific its criteria for land donations.

To view the three former sites, see the attachment. For more information contact John Duffy at 745-9689 or Planning Director Murph O'Brien at 745-9851.