An architect defines three primary design elements: Firmness, commodity and delight. Firmness is developing something lasting. Commodity means the project serves its intended use. Delight is designing something people can’t help but enjoy.
In 1964, two delightful classics were released in Walla Walla: The ’64 Ford Mustang and the current, panoramic Walla Walla High School campus. When launched, both had firmness and commodity as well.
Fifty years later, a classic Mustang cared for by its owner still runs. Walla Walla High School cared for by its owners with maintenance and operations levies still runs. Yet even with good care and classic styling, they are still 50 years old and their commodity has changed.
A 1964 Mustang might get 10 miles per gallon. The 2015 gets 29 on the highway. The Walla Walla High School science building has energy efficiency similar to a 1960s car.
Modern features have come to cars. Think air bags, fuel injection, rear view cameras. Modern features also have come to science classrooms. Imagine Internet access and embedded technology, plumbing fixtures at lab stations, multiple eye wash stations and safety showers for instance.
This question comes before voters in the coming weeks. Is it time to trade in an old science facility for a new one? Here’s what I’ll consider:
Is the project needed? Yes. While the high school will be more spacious with fewer students next year, it doesn’t improve antiquated science facilities. The request is targeted at one specific area of need.
Is the timing right? Yes. Now is as good a time as any. If you consider that construction prices will grow over time and we remain in a low-interest-rate environment, then now is the last time this project can be purchased at this price.
Does School District leadership have the right plan? Yes. School leaders listened after the last bond failure. Focus any capital project on needs, not wants. Don’t bring the “whole thing” to voters; bring phases. Don’t spend so much. This project is millions less than the previous request.
Is the price right? Yes. The price seems reasonable for its impact. The total price is in the millions, but that’s not what my wife and I will contribute. Our property tax assessment means those with a $200,000 house will pay a little over $5 per month for 180 months.
Give students a science facility with firmness, commodity and delight for the next generation. Vote yes.