Voters pass Evart millage renewal by 27 votes

EVART — With only a 27-vote difference, residents in the Evart Public School district voted on Tuesday to approve the renewal of a 25-year $8.4 million bond millage proposal.

"We're very happy and this is exciting," said EPS Superintendent Howard Hyde. "We thank the folks for their support."

Official results revealed there were 550 votes in favor of the millage and 523 against, with a combined total of 1,073 votes cast in Oscola and Mecosta counties. Residents in the EPS district, which includes the city of Evart, parts of Middle Branch, Hersey, Cedar, Evart, Hartwick, Orient, Osceola and Sylvan townships in Osceola County, and Chippewa and Grant townships in Mecosta County, voted on the issue.

Osceola County Clerk Karen Bluhm said voter turnout was below 20 percent, which she expected.

The bond will assist the district in making necessary upgrades to mechanical, electrical and architectural areas, as well as improvements to parking lots, play areas and technological needs.

Evart Middle School Principal Jason O'Dell also expressed his elation about the millage results, which will provide "a positive opportunity for the students."

"I'm ecstatic," he said. "It's a very, very exciting thing to have the millage pass and know what we'll be able to do for our kids. It's a wonderful feeling and it's an opportune time for our district. The replacements, upgrades and repairs will have a direct impact on the community and we want those upgrades to greatly impact the learning environment for the students."

Concerning the small difference in votes, Hyde said he understands times are still tough for people, which may cause them to vote "no" on such a millage, but he's happy with the outcome.

The estimated millage to be levied for the bond is 2.44 mills ($2.44 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation), which is a lower millage rate than when the bond was set in 1995 at 3.5 mills.

"The 'no' votes are just as important. I think the gap reiterates we need to do a better job connecting with the people in the community," O'Dell said. "I look at it as we have work to do to get those people on board. We need them as much as we need those who said 'yes.'"

He added the passing of the millage is a huge responsibility for the district and it's his goal to demonstrate it's not a wasted opportunity. Before any of the improvements and changes begin, a meeting with KingScott Engineering will take place to determine a time frame for each issue. Many of the mechanical and electrical upgrades likely won't be able to occur until school ends for summer break. Other items, such as technology, may be able to be considered immediately, O'Dell said.

Official results and a breakdown of how each precinct voted can be found on the Osceola County website, osceola-county.org and the Mecosta County website, co.mecosta.mi.us.