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School bond faces money hurdle

By MARGO HORNER, The Mirror

In regards to a $149 million school bond, Federal Way School District officials promised long ago to complete construction on time and on budget.

Now they are fighting to keep that promise.

Rod Leland, facilities director for Federal Way schools, has been making weekly trips to Olympia to debate with state health officials who have proposed new building rules that could cost Federal Way as much as $18 million.

At a school board meeting Feb. 26, Leland suggested that the new rules could cost the district enough money to prevent the rebuilding of one of five schools promised by a bond measure passed last year.

That would be the worst case scenario, Leland said.

After the most recent meeting in Olympia, Leland said state officials seem willing to work with the school district.

“I think the threat is diminished,” he said. “The health department has earnestly come to the table and said ‘We’ve heard what you’re saying...’”

Leland said he supports measures that increase health and safety for students, but not all of the proposed new rules are urgent.

“Some create a risk today and some are of a nature that they can wait,” he said.

As an example, Leland discussed a proposed rule to test for copper in water in each of the buildings. However, the state department of health has not yet defined acceptable levels of copper or indicated the risks associated with copper and water, Leland said.

“To test for something, first we need to know how the test is done, what’s the risk and then what are the standards,” he said.

The district already does regular testing on water in school buildings for levels of lead.

Federal Way school officials hope to convince the state to phase in some of the new requirements, alleviating some of the sudden financial burden. They also hope that the state or federal government will pay to implement some of the additional measures.

“I continue to be optimistic that we’ll find a resolution that probably will cost something, but less than my worst case prediction,” Leland said.

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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