Herald and Journal, Feb. 14, 2000

Superintendent's comments on school site selection

By Supt. Riley Hoheisel

At a special school board meeting, Feb. 7, Joe Campbell, Task Force co-chair, presented the site task force recommendation for location of the proposed new high school.

Campbell indicated that developing this recommendation has been a lengthy and challenging process. The task force considered a number of locations, identified criteria to help evaluate the pros and cons of various sites, and sought input from district residents through an extensive written questionnaire.

He stated that individual task force members came to the process with personal preferences and varying perspectives on the issue of locating a high school. However, their exploration of sites and criteria was guided by a shared commitment to the goal of making a recommendation that would represent the best interests of the district as a whole while also being worthy of serious consideration by all district voters.

Campbell said that after consideration of a number of different sites, the focus narrowed to three locations: a site near Howard Lake, one near Winsted, and one near the intersection of County Roads 6 and 30. Site analysis information was reviewed for all three locations and the pros and cons of locating the school near a town versus in the country were considered.

He further added that their discussions were guided by a number of criteria, including objective site information, as well as more subjective but equally important considerations, related to district unity, our district's future, and potential voter support.

Considerations for recommending a site included the following:

  • meeting site criteria from a technical standpoint, including size, topography and soils, floodplains, site access, wetlands, and zoning;
  • cost of providing utilities;
  • site availability and cost;
  • central location geographically and population-wise;
  • would validate Winsted as the newest partner in HLWW;
  • would avoid "my town/your town" issue;
  • would enhance (rather than erode) district unity;
  • could help address current and future open enrollment issues;
  • would receive serious consideration by voters district-wide; and
  • would have a reasonable chance of approval by voters district-wide.

He said that the results of the district-wide resident questionnaire also provided valuable information related to the likelihood of residents considering various site locations, their openness to considering locations other than near their town, and their willingness to give serious consideration to the task force's recommendation.

Campbell stated that the site task force recommends that the board consider locating the proposed new high school east of County Road 6 on County Road 30, on an approximately 80-acre parcel of land owned by Gordon and Malvina Dalbec. This parcel received high marks in the formal site analysis completed by Abendroth, Rego, Youngquist Architects, and the site is known to be available.

While providing utilities to the site represents an additional cost that would not be incurred with sites close to either Howard Lake or Winsted, the additional cost appears to be reasonable and would not represent a significant increase in annual tax impact for district residents.

Preliminary estimates suggest an additional cost of $700,000, or about $19 per year for the owner of a $100,000 home.

Located about halfway between the population centers of Howard Lake and Winsted, the site represents a central location geographically and population-wise. Residents of Howard Lake and Winsted would travel to the school via County Road 6, and Waverly residents could choose to reach the school via either County Road 6 or County Road 30.

Choosing a country location rather than a site close to one of the towns will help to enhance district unity, rather than erode it. Such a central location avoids any "my town/your town" concerns.

Campbell stated that all task force members fully support the process that was undertaken to identify a site recommendation, and all members fully support the final recommendation as best meeting the identified criteria for selecting a high school site. In more than one case, individual preference was set aside to support the greater good.

During the presentation, Robert Abendroth, the school district's architect, also presented specific information on site analysis.

The site task force also recommended that the board commit to keeping an elementary school open in Winsted. The report states that while the task force recognizes the economic considerations related to maintaining four school facilities, it believes that the commitment to maintaining an elementary school presence in all three communities is of critical importance.

The site task force recommendation will now be considered for school board action at the regular school board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 22.

As a member of the task force, I extend my appreciation to the other members for their time and dedication to this most important project: co chairs Joe Campbell and Jack Littfin, Jim Fowler, Deb Gatz, Sean Groos, Randy Heuer, Catherine Jackson, Janet Perry, Jim Raymond, and Gerry Smith.

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