By MAGGIE SCHUETTE-VOSS
The idea of building a community center in Lester Prairie has not died.
Bill Lawrence and Charles Orton of DLR Group Educational Facilities Consultants told the Lester Prairie School Board Tuesday their company specializes in developing and finding financing to build facilities that are jointly owned by the school district and another party, such as the city or county.
DLR was asked to attend the meeting by Supt. James Redfield because of discussion in the community about the need for a community center/library/auditorium. The board is not prepared at this time to start a building project.
Lawrence and Orton presented information showing that a community center could be owned jointly by the city and school district and used by the entire community.
If hired for the project, DLR would assist the city and school district with identifying what kind of community center the city needs from planning to building it.
The fee to take the city/school district through the planning and financing process would be $7,500 to $15,000. DLR works through the referendum, and if it fails, will assist through successive tries without additional fees.
A benefit of a jointly owned facility is that it can be financed, in part, through other means than just a referendum. Other funding sources could be special legislation; property taxes on school, city or county tax base; local sales tax; local income tax; or grants.
The operation and other issues regarding a jointly owned community center would be governed by a joint powers agreement. The agreement would specify financial and operational, staffing, maintenance, and budget responsibilities.
Lawrence said there are 10 steps to developing a joint project: identify a need, identify potential partners, define a planning team, explore possibilities, develop a program/cost analysis, assess community perceptions, address financing issue/requirements, negotiate terms of a joint use agreement, secure funding, and building design and construction.
When the planning team begins work, DLR assists during the team's eight meetings. Lawrence said DLR has a working agenda to keep the team on track, and it takes six months to one year for the team to bring a recommendation to the school board.
Lawrence said the key to a successful joint project is the planning team has to "agree to agree, you have to reach a consensus," he said.
In its planning phase, a successful joint project will have recognition of common need, goals and objectives, common facilities without "property lines," such as areas only for city or school use, develop and maintain a consensus, and recognize the need for community involvement.
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