Comer General Construction, of the Everett/Mill Creek area, and which built the new Ken Laboratory Academy, is one of three companies that has donated $5,000 to the campaign to pass the Kent School District bond on April 25. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Kent School District

Comer General Construction, of the Everett/Mill Creek area, and which built the new Ken Laboratory Academy, is one of three companies that has donated $5,000 to the campaign to pass the Kent School District bond on April 25. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Kent School District

Three businesses dominate contributions to Kent school bond campaign

$5,000 each from companies that do regular business with the school district

Three businesses have donated half of the $30,680 raised so far by the volunteer Citizens for Kent Schools group to sway voters to approve the Kent School District’s $495 million bond on the April 25 ballot.

Each of the businesses donated $5,000 each, by far the largest contributions to the group, according to the April 17 report on the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission website about Citizens for Kent Schools.

Citizens for Kent Schools uses the funds to send campaign mailers, advertise and more in an effort to get voters to vote yes for the bond. As a political committee, it is required to file campaign contribution and expense reports with the Public Disclosure Commission. The most recent report was filed March 17.

All three companies have done work for the district in the past — and could get more jobs if voters give at least 60% approval to the measure. The bond would fund facility improvements, student health and safety, outdoor program improvements, districtwide program growth and technology. No new schools will be built, but many schools will receive upgrades.

The three companies that donated $5,000 each are:

• Rivers Edge Environmental Services, of Covington, which specializes in environmental cleanup, land clearing, site development and demolition. The company had the low bid of $1.3 million among three bids in 2020 to tear down the old Panther Lake Elementary School, according to district financial documents. The Kent School Board awarded a $2.6 million contract to Rivers Edge in 2019 to tear down the old Kent Mountain View Academy. The company submitted the only bid, according to district documents.

• Comer General Construction, of Everett/Mill Creek. In 2020, the company had the low bid among three for $26.3 million to build the new Kent Laboratory Academy.

• Metrix, a mechanical engineering firm in Renton that does regular consultant work for the district on HVAC upgrades. For example, the company received more than two dozen consultant fees ranging from $4,000 to $31,000 between September 2020 and May 2021, according to the district’s Capital Project Voucher reports available on the district’s website.

If the bond passes, $132.3 million would go toward facility improvements, including roof replacements at seven schools; boiler replacements at seven schools; flooring replacement at four schools; improvements to ADA compliance; flooding and drainage mitigation; exterior building improvements; HVAC device replacements; site improvements and fence repairs at multiple schools; asbestos abatement; and parking lot improvements at eight sites.

Metrix, Rivers Edge Environmental Services and Comer Construction do at least portions of the type of work that would be funded.

Metrix explains donation

The Kent News emailed all three companies to find out the reasons they donated $5,000 to the campaign to pass the bond. Metrix was the only company that responded.

Metrix performs a lot of its services working under local architects for K-12 clients.

“As a result of our participation in the K-12 market sector, we get a lot of requests to donate to these causes and we believe it is important to give back to the communities we serve,” said Josh Robischon, who founded the company in 2012 along with Scott Miller and Brady Bell, in an email.

Robischon said the company, depending on how profits are going, will donate between $1,500 to $5,000 to school districts it works with. Metrix works with districts from Centralia to Bellingham.

“Brady is heavily rooted in Kent so he was compelled to have Metrix be on the higher end of our standard donation for the Kent bond,” Robischon said. “He lived in Kent his entire life, graduated from Kentwood High School, his mom was a teacher in the district for 40 years, his grandfather started Bell Andersen, his father Brad Bell has advocated for growth in Kent, his grandma had a house on Lake Meridian. So he still has a lot of connections in that area.”

Robischon said the company contributed for other reasons, too.

“We’ve been able to observe the positive impacts a new or remodeled school has on the occupants of the facility,” he said. “Outside of attending many school grand openings over the past 20 years, I was lucky enough to attend Komachin Middle School (in Lacey, North Thurston Public Schools) the first year it opened and can remember the stoke my peers and I had at the time.

“We have toured Kent schools and believe many are in need of upgrade. If you visit the (state) ICOS (Information and Condition of Schools) scores for the facilities in the area I believe you’ll find they rate lower than many other local school districts. Improved educational facilities, comfort, indoor air quality, etc. has been proven to have a direct impact on improved cognitive performance for the students who occupy such facilities. We think this is a positive impact refreshed facilities provide.”

Reaching businesses

Brooke Valentine oversees the fundraising for Citizens for Kent Schools.

“We’re a pretty small organization made up of community volunteers trying to get the word out about this bond to address our district’s essential needs like student health and safety, critical repairs, building technology and early childhood education,” Valentine said. “Like all volunteer-run school citizen committees, we rely on grassroots support and donations from businesses to help get our message out.”

Valentine said the amount of campaign money in Kent is quite modest compared to other districts, such as Lake Washington, Seattle, Tacoma and Northshore. Lake Washington volunteers raised $144,235 for a 2022 levy campaign, which included $25,000 from an individual, $25,000 from the Lake Washington Education Association and several $10,000 donations by construction companies, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Seattle volunteers raised $184,798 in 2022, which included $50,000 from the Seattle Education Association and $20,000 from a self investor.

The Kent Education Association (teachers’ union) donated $2,000 to the Kent campaign.

Volunteers in the Highline School District raised $90,455 in 2022 for a bond, which included $12,500 each from a retired couple and $5,000 from Alaska Airlines. Citizens for Renton Schools raised $18,136 in 2022, with the largest donation $3,000 from a Spokane architecture firm.

Valentine said the Kent volunteers sent out a ton of emails and that she did follow up to help find donors. She remembered reaching out to Metrix, Rivers Edge, Comer Construction and many others.

“I remember connecting with all three you mention (and many others) and running through how their donations would be used to help us have multiple quality voter contacts and help us reach a 60% yes vote,” Valentine said. “My goal was to get 10 donations at the $5,000 and I didn’t quite get there but I am hoping we used our budget wisely and that voters can also see the value and find their way to vote yes.”

When the companies agreed to $5,000 donations, Valentine was pleased.

“I felt pretty good about getting multiple high level donations it really pushed me to share the need and share how the campaign has always been a good steward, worked hard and has been transparent honest and always working with the goal of improving and supporting our local community schools,” she said.

“I really value every dollar donated, and hope that every donor past present and future knows that. I know we don’t do enough during the campaign to circle back and thank those who have given their time and money.”

In addition to $132.3 million toward facility improvements, if the bond passes, the district plans to spend $120 million on student health and safety, including upgrade access controls; new alarm systems and other items; $100 million on outdoor program improvements, including synthetic turf fields and track improvements at six schools; improved ADA compliance at high school and middle school fields; $70.5 million for districtwide program growth, including new furniture; and $26.7 million for technology with updates to the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and associated systems.

Voters must return their ballots to a ballot box by April 25 or mail it with a postmark by April 25.

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