Board approves funds to finish memorial garden

-A A +A

LAHS: Rotary Club underestimates size of the project

By Tris DeRoma

If all goes according to plan, Los Alamos High School will soon have its Memorial Garden back.

It’s been a pretty hard road to hoe for the garden.

The garden was removed during a recent renovation to the high school, but was in danger of disappearing altogether until the Los Alamos Rotary Club decided to take it on as a community project.

Then, Rotary Club officials revealed they may not have enough money to complete the project, after underestimating the cost to install the garden by $7,000.

Recently, Skip King, the Rotary Club’s service director wrote a letter to Los Alamos Board of Education President Kevin Honnell, requesting the board help them finish the project with additional funding.

“… I approached Superintendent Gene Schmidt asking for community service ideas. As soon as he mentioned the idea of the Memorial Garden, I knew it was the perfect project for our club. However, I knew it would be a financial challenge for us,” King said in the letter.

He went on to note that the school’s $90,000 landscaping proposal came in under budget and asked the board if they could take funds from that and give it to the club to help finish the garden. He also mentioned that Rotary Club will be in charge of maintaining the finished garden at no cost to the school district.

“Again, we are asking for $7,000 to complete this worthwhile endeavor,” he said in the letter. “Also, I think it’s important to note that our club will be providing spring and fall cleanup to the planting areas, which is a significant amount of time and labor.”

After much debate, the board voted 4-1 in favor of the proposal.

Board member Melanie McKinley was the lone dissenter.

“I’m at a point right now where I’m drawing a line in the sand when it comes to budgets,” McKinley said. “You have a budget, you set it and you don’t go over it. They were over their budget by 50 percent. I’m all for the Memorial Garden,

I understand the importance of it, but there has to be a limit.”

Honnell noted however the Rotary Club contributed $15,000 of its own funds to the project, and what happened was they didn’t realize the size and scope of the project.

“To me it was a real bargain,” Honnell said. “We get really enthusiastic when we receive matching funds for our construction projects. The Rotary Club was willing to pay two thirds of the cost of a beautiful garden that’s right on the edge of the campus.”

Schmidt was glad the motion passed. “I will say with a small bit of humbleness that it was my idea,” Schmidt said. “I remember when Skip and I were at the Rotary Club and he was looking for something to do for the community. That’s when I said ‘you should build a memorial.’ They picked up the idea and ran with it.”