Hononegah hasn’t settled dome claim

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BDN file photo The Hononegah High School Dome sits deflated on the high school grounds after a December 2015 ice storm.

ROCKTON — Hononegah School District administrators are still waiting on the final appraised value of the collapsed field house and equipment ahead of April’s referendum vote.

Hononegah Community High School Superintendent Lynn Gibson said the school hopes to hear back from insurance officials “soon,” and that the school district was “working as quickly as possible” to get a final appraisal amount. The school has been working since December 2015 to nail down specific insurance details.

Gibson declined to give a specific timeline on hearing back from the provider.

The school is covered through the Illinois School District Agency’s Sander Group, with the maximum coverage value being $3.4 million, which includes the former athletic dome and its contents, according to Assistant Superintendent Kim Suedbeck.

In December, the school board approved asking taxpayers for a 20-year, $17.8 million district-wide referendum to replace the field house. The school has had to apply for various exemptions for physical education classes of around 300 students due to lack of space, and the school’s track team currently practices in the hallways.

“The need for space is critical,” Gibson said. “It’s evident every day.”

In November, a $44 million referendum deflated after district voters denied the sweeping plan that would have included multiple school improvements, including the field house, which collapsed following an ice storm in the winter of 2015.

The upcoming vote will be preceded by a community forum, set for 7 p.m. on March 23 at the school’s performing arts center, to discuss the referendum and provide information to taxpayers. The move to provide more information over the referendum stems from the confusion brought by the previous referendum, according to referendum committee chairman Tom Polaski.

Final building plans will be released on Feb. 27, Gibson said.

The new referendum would require owners of a $100,000 home to pay around $54 more in property taxes annually. If approved, the district’s tax rate would increase to 2.79 from 2.60, an increase of 0.19 percent. Taxes were lowered in the district after the school board voted to let bond options from 2012 expire.

Since the 1980s, the school has tackled expansion efforts twice, while school enrollment has increased to over 2,000 students in 2017.

Options for the prospective structure could include pre-cast concrete or a steel structure. The prior referendum had added cafeteria and classroom improvements, but those items were off the table following last month’s discussion. A proposal for the plan includes the field house, locker rooms, storage facilities, a flex classroom, fitness center and a community entrance.

The former dome was built in 2003 with a 20-year life expectancy. In addition to athletic events and classes, the dome played host to several community events, including the RoRo Expo and Peppermint Swirl craft show. The field house is anticipated to cost $15.5 million, with 15 percent in contingency fees adding the remaining $2.3 million to reach the total.

A final draft of the referendum question to appear on the spring election ballot was released last month, and will read as follows:

“Shall the Board of Education of Hononegah Community High School District Number 207, Winnebago and Boone Counties, Illinois, build and equip a field house addition to the Hononegah Community High School Building to replace the dome, and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $17,800,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?”

No timeline has been released on when a construction plan would be implemented if the referendum passes.

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