Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 8, 2005

Victor Township school site officially OK’d by HLWW

By Jenni Sebora

Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board unanimously approved the purchase agreement with Donald (Bud) Dangers last Monday for $1.6 million for 73 acres, contingent on the building bond passage.

The board also unanimously approved an option agreement with Dangers on the homestead site at a cost of $1.5 million, which includes about five acres, with a right of first refusal, which gives the school district the first option at purchasing the site if Dangers decides to sell it.

The board noted that this price is high, but it was set by Dangers, and the option is available to decline the purchase as well when it may become available.

Board and land committee member Lori Custer noted that Dangers would like to continue farming the site as long as he can and as long as it doesn’t interfere with the building process.

“This would also prevent a weed issue if the site had crops,” Custer said.

As part of the agreement the school district would be allowed access to the land for any testing as necessary.

There will be a joint meeting regarding zoning with Victor Township and the City of Howard Lake 7:30 p.m. Tuesday Aug. 16 at the Victor Township hall.

“If the city and the township can’t come to an agreement, the county has to get involved, and it would definitely be a more difficult situation,” Superintendent George Ladd said.

Whether to use a construction manager for the building project was also a point of discussion. The board decided to have architect Gary Nyberg of SGN give it information and feedback on the positives and negatives of using a construction manager.

“SGN has been very good to us. We are getting our money’s worth from them – $5,000 – for all the work they have done and are doing for us. Granted, they want our future business, but we would have had to pay any other architect a lot more money. I feel we have a trusting relationship with Gary. We should get his input and feedback on the use of a construction manager,” Board Member Charlie Borrell said.

The rest of the board agreed. Ladd also urged the board members to call other board members from school districts, such as Dassel-Cokato and Watertown-Mayer, that have been involved or are involved presently in building projects, to get feedback and information from them on the issue of construction managers, etc.

The issue of ground source heat versus rooftop for the new building was a topic of discussion also.

Using in-ground heat would be an up-front additional cost of up to $2 million, but could have a pay back in a certain number of years, Board Chair John Lideen noted.

“Are taxpayers willing to pay extra costs up front to save in the future – if there is a savings?” Board Member Al Doering asked.

Resident Michelle Heuer noted that in-ground is a renewable resource, and is the most realistic choice for the future.

Along with input and information on using a construction manager, the board will also ask Nyberg to present more information on ground source heat versus roof-top, and a possible cost comparison between the two systems for the proposed new building’s square footage.

This issue also led to a discussion of what the ballot should look like in terms of the number of questions.

Lideen emphasized that the board has been “warned” by the architects not to exceed two questions on the ballot.

The discussion of what would be included on question one and question two ensued, with the board and community members suggesting different scenarios, including having ground source heat be an option as question number two and question number one would include the new high school building and site, remodels and additions on the existing school buildings ($22.4 million), new athletic fields ($1.2 million), and a 20-bus garage ($640,000) for a total of a little over $24 million.

Community member Beth Horn noted that people she has spoken with feel that the athletic fields are necessary.

Without the additional money for athletic fields, the fields would not be funded for lights and bleachers, but would include drainage and fencing.

Another ballot scenario discussed, included having the new building construction, remodels and additions on the existing schools, and the new athletic fields on one question and the bus garage on the second question.

Other ballot scenarios were discussed as well, and the board pointed out that everything that is being proposed is needed for the district.

“This is a bare minimum. We basically cut the amount in half of what was being asked for in the last building bond election,” Schaible said.

Doering also noted that he doesn’t see a second question as a “sacrificial lamb.”

The board decided it needed more information on the heating issue.

Ladd reported receiving phone calls from people interested in purchasing the vacant lot on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Eighth Street and the present bus garage site. The board gave the go ahead for appraisals of both sites.

The board also needs to make decisions regarding the length of the bond, which should be settled by its Sept. 19 board meeting so the board can call for the election at the Oct. 17 meeting.

This will make the proposed special election day Tuesday, Dec. 13.

The school administration and Nyberg have organized and planned a building bond update and informational meetings with the staff at the various HLWW school sites Wednesday, Aug. 31.

Nyberg will meet with all of the district’s staff for a general overview of the building bond and following this, will meet, throughout the day, with the different departments in small groups at each HLWW school.

Extended day kindergarten update

Presently, the families of 14 students have paid for the first quarter of extended day kindergarten, which is down from the original 22 that registered. The budget was developed on 20 students, Ladd noted.

The board gave a directive to Ladd to hire a half-time teacher that is needed yet to run the half-day programs and the extended-day program, and conceded that the district should move forward on offering and running the extended-day program as planned.

“I think we should go forward with the extended-day kindergarten program. The school put a lot of work into planning it, and we should see what the benefits of an all-day program are,” Board Member Dan Schaible said, and the rest of the board members agreed.

If the district does not offer it, there is a potential that it could lose students, Ladd said.

“I think we should move forward also. We can say we tried it, and if it doesn’t work out, we can bring the issue back again in five years or so,” Borrell said.

Doering also noted that the fees paid for extended-day kindergarten are deductible for families, just as day care is, and the cost of the program is similar to the cost of day care.

Board Member Tom Hammer noted that some districts offer half-day kindergarten in the beginning of the year and then move to all-day during the year so students can transition into it.

“Not having a full program (20 students) may give other families that have their kindergarten children in the half-day program to move into the extended-day program during the course of the year,” Hammer said. Ladd agreed that this could be an option for families, if the program is not full.

Custer also pointed out that there is still approximately a month to go before school begins, and more families may register for the extended-day program during this time frame.

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