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Broken Arrow school board discusses casino controversy

Broken Arrow school board discusses casino controversy

Broken Arrow school board discusses casino controversy
Photo Credit: Russell Mills
Meeting of the Broken Arrow School Board, Jan. 30, 2012

Broken Arrow school board discusses casino controversy

The Broken Arrow School Board heard from Superintendent Dr. Jarod Mendenhall Monday evening regarding the controversial development of the Red Clay Casino, which is currently under construction in close proximity to the planned location of a new elementary school and pre-k center.

The comments came during a regularly-scheduled meeting of the board at the Education Service Center, 701 S. Main Street in Broken Arrow.

Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall told KRMG in an earlier interview that he would be seeking public input on the the decision whether or not to proceed with construction in light of the casino's location.

News about the casino became publicly known only after the school district had made its plans and acquired the land to build the new campus.

The meeting began at 6:00 p.m.

KRMG has a reporter on the scene and we will update this story as the meeting continues.

In other business, the board recognized the achievements of the Broken Arrow High School cheerleading squad, which captured a recent national championship.

Board members also voted to accept a donation of several defibrillators to be placed in schools.

They were donated by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association.

Dr. Mendenhall first gave a brief presentation of the timeline in connection with the casino.

He said the district first learned about the casino "during the winter break," in December.

He said the new schools resulted from the reorganization of a bond issue.

The issue passed in 2009, the reorganization took place last year.

He said the plan addressed a flooding problem at the Indian Springs school.

The district closed on the 80-acre property in December, 2010.

At the time, he said, "of course we did not know" that a casino would be developed nearby.

He said the city manager emailed him Sept. 9, alerting him to the possibility that a casino would be built at 111th St. and 129th E. Ave.

At that point, because so many other issues were involved with the bond issue, it wasn't really possible to go back and restart the process.

It also wasn't clear at the time that the casino would actually be built.

Dr. Mendenhall told the board that the district had conducted a survey of staff and roughly 70% of respondents indicated that the school should be moved. 

Four hundred eighty-eight staff members responded to the survey.

He also consulted with the long-range planning committee.

They told him the district had "done its due diligence" and recommended moving forward with the current location, albeit with enhanced measures taken for safety and security.

That may include additional fencing, security cameras, secured entries, etc.

The school buildings themselves may actually be moved further back from 111th St. on the property.

The difference to taxpayers, Dr. Mendenhall said, could be in the millions of dollars.

One of the issues is the rising price of land in the area.

Plans for a new exit off the Creek Turnpike has meant nearby land has become more valuable.

When asked about time constraints, he said the decision would have to be made swiftly.

Dirt needs to be moving in the next few weeks, he added.

Redistricting plans would be affected as well, he noted, saying that changing the location of the new schools now would have a "ripple effect" far beyond that particular campus.

Work with architects and contractors continues, he said, because the district so far has proceeded as if the construction will go on as originally planned.

Beside the money paid for the land itself, money has been spent on designers and contractors.

Board members asked if the superintendent had had any direct discussions with the Kialegee Tribal Town, the Native American tribe which has claimed sovereignty on the land and is part of the development corporation.

]He answered that he had not, but would continue to attempt to do so.



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