Grain elevator explosions; school bond on ballot for third time

Mar 27, 2013

Coming up we’ll delve into a small school district trying to get a bond passed for the third time.

But first, grain elevators across the country store billions of bushels of farm products like corn and wheat. They’re a staple of rural communities. But the dust that piles up in grain storage facilities is highly combustible – it can be six times more explosive than gun powder. Just one spark can send a blast that will shake the ground for miles.

After a deadly explosion in northeast Kansas, some of the victims’ families say the only way to put a stop to grain explosions may be to bring criminal prosecutions against grain companies.
Harvest Public Media’s Jeremy Bernfeld reports.

To hear more about Jeremy Bernfeld’s report, tune into Field Notes with Abbie Fentress Swanson this Friday.

Now, in the small town of Hallsville, Mo., the school district is hoping the third time is a charm as it puts a school bond issue on a ballot for, well, the third time. The April 2 ballot issue would increase the school tax levy by about 5 cents to finance a $2 million bond for campus improvements. That’s down from the $4.3 million the district asked for last April and August.

Hallsville School District Superintendent John Robertson says more than half of the $2 million will go toward tearing down and replacing the science, and health and fitness classrooms. He estimates about $300,000 to $500,000 will be used on security cameras, entrances and other safety improvements.

“Certainly the tragedy in Sandy Hook in December really brought all those things to life," he says. "So in our public meetings, we had a lot of discussions about the security in our buildings and certainly there are some things we need to do to make that better.”

The vice president of the Parent Teacher Organization Shanda Nichols says as a parent, safety is the biggest issue on her mind. Another concern Nichols has is the outdated equipment in the current science classrooms and labs. The last upgrade occurred in 1980.

“I’m sure there have been a lot of improvements since 1980 to 2012," she says. "So we are looking at basically bringing all that up to current technologies. And our kids need that in order to go on and go to college.”

Nichols says she is confident that voters will support the ballot this time.