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Soundproofed schools are a plus
Supporters of ex-Des Moines mayor Don Wasson have repeatedly said that Des Moines contributions to the Airport Communities Coalition (ACC) have been a waste of money. I totally disagree with this conclusion. Over the past decade, Des Moines has invested $3.99 million in ACC. That is a lot of money for our small city. But, the taxpayers of Des Moines have already received financial benefits far greater than their investment.
The soundproofing in our schools alone has dwarfed our investment. ACC pressured the FAA, the Port of Seattle and the state into pledging $150 million for soundproofing Highline School District schools. If these funds were not coming from these outside sources, local taxpayers would have to bear this financial burden entirely on their own.
Seven of the 15 schools that will benefit from these funds are located within Des Moines. They are Des Moines Elementary, Midway Intermediate, Mount Rainier High School, North Hill Elementary, Olympic Intermediate, Pacific Middle School, and Parkside Primary. This represents 47 percent of the schools to be soundproofed.
The distribution of funds has not been determined for five of our schools. But, $13 million has already been allocated for Mount Rainier High and North Hill Elementary. Thanks to ACC, this is a $9 million net financial gain for Des Moines.
The final distribution of this insulation money throughout the district has not been determined, but Des Moines schools could receive up to 47 percent of these funds, or about $70.5 million. This would represent a potential net gain for our community of about $66.5 million.
The improvement in our childrens educational environment is a tangible benefit to our community that is priceless. Because of ACC actions, the bulk of the costs will be paid for by those that have created the need for soundproofing and not by the taxpayers of our area. Most of these funds were just recently secured to mitigate the impact of the second runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, completed more than 25 years ago. Des Moines taxpayers cannot afford to abandon the ACC now, because we need this regional support to gain mitigation for the third runway.