MCC improvement proposal would include relocating senior center.

October 28, 2021

Superintendent Jeff Mount discusses the proposal.

MCC improvement proposal would include relocating senior center.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — Mason County Central hosted its third community forum Wednesday, Oct. 28, to discuss proposed facility improvements. The meeting was attended by a small in-person audience along with some participants who watched it online. 

Superintendent Jeff Mount spoke about the likelihood of the school asking the voters to approve a 1.95 mill increase that would raise $33,570,000. The most discussed item on the potential proposal is a performing arts center (auditorium), that would be located on the southeast side of the high school, south of the present A.O. Carlson gymnasium and the band room. One of the newest additions is the relocation of the Scottville Area Senior Center from its current downtown location to the high school complex. 

Presently, Mason County Central is the only school in the West Michigan Conference that does not have an auditorium. Mount said a performing arts center would serve multiple purposes.

“This space would not only serve as a performance center, but it would also be a classroom and a community meeting space,” Mount said. “We anticipate that this facility would be used quite a bit throughout the week, not just for performances. It’s quite a necessity as we look at 21st century learning. It’s also a necessity as Mason County Central needs to meet the needs of students and to remain competitive.” 

Bruce Krieger, a retired teacher and former Scottville mayor, endorsed the auditorium. 

“Kids are the most important product here,” Krieger said. “A performing arts center would give kids a great advantage to improve their learning experience. It would also serve the whole community. It’s vitally important we all get out and support this project.”

Mount and Krieger, along with performing arts instructor Tom Richert, spoke about the positive impact a performing arts center would have on the economy of Scottville. 

“This is a space that would be able to generate income through bringing in outside acts,” Richert said.

One of the latest additions to the discussion is the relocation of the Scottville Area Senior Center. The center has been located at 140 S. Main St., for over 40 years. Mount said moving the center to the high school complex would provide more access to facilities for senior citizens. 

“We have been looking at restoring A.O. Carlson gymnasium back to an athletic facility. This is a space that could be used for recreation for senior citizens, in addition to our students.” 

Mount said the new senior center would be located on the northeast side of the school, integrated with the old wood shop. 

“Bringing the senior center to the high school would ultimately be a cost savings for the district,” Mount said. “We would no longer have to maintain an older building. The move would also mean that a commercial building in downtown Scottville would go back on the tax rolls. There’s a lot of movement happening in downtown Scottville and it’s very unlikely that this building would be empty long.” 

The potential bond proposal would also include updated security and safety in all the school buildings. 

“With the 2006 bond, we updated security in the high school, middle school, Victory Early Childhood Center, and Scottville Elementary, plus we built the Upper Elementary,” Mount said. “Since that time, we have learned a lot about security and safety.” 

Mount said each building’s primary entry would be updated to require visitors to enter the main office before being allowed into the rest of the building. 

“These are measures that have been studied and proven to deter any threats to the schools,” Mount said. 

In addition, several parking and driveway improvements would be made throughout the school’s Scottville campus along with Victory Early Childhood Center in Victory Township and the bus garage in Custer Township. The bus garage would also get a new office, replacing the trailer that has been used for decades. 

“We are very concerned not only about the actual state of our streets and sidewalks but also the traffic flow on campus,” Mount said. “While drop-off and pick-up times happen in a short period of time, there is a tremendous amount of activity happening during that time. One of the biggest areas of concern is the area near the upper elementary. We are hoping that traffic flow can be improved in this area to make it safer.” 

Also expected on the proposal are improvements to some of the athletic facilities, such as repairing the press box at Spartan Community Field along with replacing the scoreboard at the soccer field, locker room updating, rebuilding the outdoor basketball courts at Scottville Elementary  and replacing the bleachers at the middle school

The high school, which was built in 1959, also is need of updating. 

“In 2006 we made a lot of improvements to the high school,” Mount said. “We built a new gym, added what is called ‘D’ hall on the south side of the building and improved some classrooms along ‘C’ hall on the west side of the building. But, much of the rest of the building remains its original 1950s state. This is a high priority to get this building up to the 21st century.” 

The majority of the high school’s classrooms have seen little updating in 60 years. In the 1990s the band room was updated and in 2006 A.O. Carlson Gymnasium was converted to a multi-use space to include performances. Much of that updating is now outdated as well. 

“We are reaching the end of the lifespan of most of the performing arts equipment in the A.O.,” Richert said. 

Mount added that the conversion of the A.O. Carlson Gym, named after founding superintendent Arnold O. Carlson, was never an ideal solution to meeting the needs of quality performing arts studies. 

“At the end of the day, it’s a stage at the end of a gym,” Mount said. “Our students deserve more. We have produced some amazing students who have gone on to have incredible careers in the arts. I think it’s time we up the quality.” 

The request for millage in May 2022 would technically be a millage renewal for 25 years. In 2006, the voters of MCC approved a $16.9 million bond that built the upper elementary and made improvements to several other facilities (see information below). That millage continues to drop every year as debt is paid off. In 2015, the millage rate was 4.19 mills, this year it is 3.33 mills and in 2022 it will be 2.74. The board of education likely will request an increase of 1.95 mills, bringing the millage rate up to 4.47 mills, which is just slightly higher than what property owners were paying in 2015. The rate of 1.95 mills would cost a homeowner with a home valued at $100,000, an additional $97.50 per year or $8.13 per month.

The millage rate would be comparable to neighboring school districts. Shelby Public Schools passed a bond earlier this year bringing its rate from 1.32 to 4.96 mills. Manistee also passed a bond increasing its millage from 2.25 to 4.9 mills. Pentwater’s November millage proposal, if passed, would bring its rate from 2.85 mills to 4.05. Ludington Area Schools millage rate is currently 5.75 mills. 

“We aren’t asking for everything,” Mount said. “We don’t need to have the highest tax rate. We just want our kids to have the best opportunities they can have.” 

One citizen who spoke up at Wednesday’s forum said he is willing to pay even more for some additional improvements to athletic facilities. 

Ryan Graham, who is director of the Scottville Youth Football Program and also middle school football coach, said he would like to see artificial turf at Spartan Community Field. He also would like to see improved water drainage at the baseball and softball fields. Much of the MCC Scottville campus is wetlands which cause a lot of water issues. 

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