Green Forest residents, school, plan strategies to promote bond issue

Friday, August 31, 2007

GREEN FOREST -- With rumors flying, about 25 concerned citizens met Tuesday night at Green Forest Intermediate School's library to plan strategies to promote the Sept. 18 bond issue election.

If it's successful, the money raised will build a new Tiger Stadium, get sixth and seventh graders out of makeshift trailers on the playground, and bring the eighth grade back from classrooms in the high school.

"Little eighth graders don't need to be in the same hallways with high schoolers," said Dr. Larry Bennett, Superintendent of Schools.

Some attendees voiced worries about the future of Green Forest as a school -- and what they termed the unacceptable prospect of state-forced consolidation with Berryville or Alpena. Others asked about reports that local businesses are opposing the bond issue.

"I know that one's just not true," said Green Forest Chamber of Commerce President Tom Newberry. "I'm not hearing anybody who is against this. But how do we get the word out?"

One idea voiced was for local businesses to offer their display windows on the Square and Main Street for students to paint reminders to vote. Representatives of the Country Rooster, Guesthouse on the Square, First National Bank and the Green Forest Barber Shop volunteered their windows.

Longtime Carroll County Fair Board President Tommy Anderson predicted that the bond issue will pass this time -- and took three pages of names of registered voters, agreeing to personally call each person on the list and urge them to support the bond issue.

Passing out the pages was First Baptist Church Pastor Marvin Emmons, who has been a vocal supporter of the bond issue ever since it lost by only 26 votes last year.

School Board Member Peggy James volunteered to put together a fact sheet for the volunteer callers.

"And when you run into other rumors, let us know," she urged. "We have to let people know the truth."

At risk is $4.7 million that the State of Arkansas will give the school district if the bond issue passes to build a $7.5 million middle school.

"People need to know what this is all about," said longtime resident Mrs. Beth Stafford.

"People need to know that we've got kids taking gym classes on a stage, classes in dressing rooms, offices crammed into closets," said Bennett. "We're interviewing more kindergarten teachers -- and we've got to deal with the reality of where we are going to educate Green Forest's kids."

Last year, grade school physical education classes often had to split the old gym and the Alumni Center with high school basketball teams -- resulting in kindergartners having to watch out for athletes sharing the gym floor.

The meeting turned into a brainstorming session. Grade School Principal Andrea Martin and parent Devon Williams showed off different designs of fans -- all boosting the bond election -- that volunteers will pass out at upcoming volleyball games and the county fair. Supporters also made plans to walk in the county fair parade Monday and staff a booth at the fair -- as well as dress up as the school tiger mascot on election day and wave to traffic at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 103.

Members of the Booster Club volunteered to hand out numbered fliers urging a "Yes" vote at Friday's football season opener against Reeds Spring. Numbers will be drawn and business owners will supply "door prizes."

Other ideas included passing out fliers at the upcoming Grandparents Day at the elementary and intermediate schools. Members of the Lions Club volunteered to record radio commercials and prepare a banner across Main Street promoting the cause.

"I'm encouraged," said School Board Member Byron Russ after the meeting. "Without a doubt, we can't do this by ourselves. Support like this from the community is vital to the future of our school."

The bond issue will build a new Tiger Stadium, complete with football, track and soccer capacity, a new field house with dressing rooms and weight-training as well as the new middle school.

The proposed six-mil property tax increase would raise school taxes from 32.18 mils to 38.18 mills. As a result, annual property taxes on a $50,000 home will rise from $322 to $381, and on a $100,000 home, the increase will be from $644 a year to $762. However, most homeowners will not be affected due to the state homestead exemption in which the state waives the first $350 on owner-occupied homes.

Early voting starts Sept. 11 at the Carroll County clerk's office at Berryville.

Anyone wishing a ride to the courthouse for early voting or to the polls on Sept. 18 was urged to call the school at 438-5202.

"We'll find you a ride if it means you'll vote," said Bennett.

"Only if you're going to vote 'Yes,'" said one member of the audience.

"No," disagreed Bennett. "We'll give anybody a ride."

"But you may hear why you should vote 'Yes' all your way to the poll," quipped Russ.

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