Bond comes at tough time, but lack of action could spell more cost

As anyone who’s been involved in any construction during the last couple of years can attest, it’s not cheap to build right now, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to end.
Not that it’s ever been, but prices have skyrocketed since COVID hit. According to government figures, construction costs rose by 17.5% between 2020 and 2021, the largest year-to-year spike since 1970.
There’s no question the pandemic played into this. But those who deal in such things say the causes have also been supply issues, tariffs, labor shortages, forest fires, low domestic lumber production during the pandemic as demand increased, and other stuff we’ve been hearing about – like inflation.
Softwood lumber prices almost doubled during the pandemic and all those fires have created plenty of demand for what’s out there. Steel and concrete prices have gone up too. Sheetrock costs more than twice what it did a few years ago.
These things affect us, as indicated by Lebanon School District Business Director William Lewis III’s report to the School Board about how district officials may have to go back to the drawing table, since construction costs look to be much higher than estimates they’ve gotten for work that needs to be done.
For Lebanon residents, these considerations also factor into their decision on the district’s $20 million bond request for repairs to many school facilities and to fund a new swimming pool.
There’s no question that, as supporters note, the pool benefits a wide segment of the population in a multitude of ways. Kids get swimming lessons, adults get exercise, and, of course, serious swimmers use it frequently and value it highly.
The pool is 55 years old and it’s leaky and creaky. It could last for another decade or it could be gone tomorrow. Nobody knows, we’re told.
So, voters are faced with two big questions: whether the city needs a pool – and those school repairs, and whether now is the time to take that plunge financially.
For many voters, no time is a good time to be taxed, but this bond does not represent a significant rate increase in what property owners in town are already paying on others which, district officials say, will be folded into this one.
Rounded off, they’d be paying about a quarter more per $1,000 property valuation over what they’re paying now.
Is it worth it? Is now the time?
Even for people who aren’t dedicated water enthusiasts, the pool has benefits. Every kid needs to learn to swim, especially with a river flowing conveniently through town. Older people also greatly benefit from water exercise.
It’s also hard to think that waiting would be a good deal with prices already skyrocketing around us.
Granted, things have gotten expensive, but is waiting going to make them cheaper? The way inflation is striking at all levels around us, we’d say it’s not likely.
Of course, Lebanon could do nothing, but that’s not the way Lebanon does things.
So the best course of action, frankly, is to approve the bond and get this project under way if voters want that pool and improvements to their schools.