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R-P selects architectural firm and consultant

Fri, Nov 25th, 2011
Posted in Education

Following a review process that included the school board, administration and the volunteer members of the Facilities Task Force, the district has decided to move its New School Initiative forward with the architectural firm of ATS&R, of Minneapolis.

"Thank you," said board member John Nitecki. "This has been lengthy process. Everyone did their homework."

From here, the district will work with the firm to create preliminary plans for a new pre-K-12 facility that the district can present to the voters for referendum support in 2012. As it's currently written, the referendum would call for the district to borrow $8,900,000 for the purpose of supporting funds it hopes to secure through a Cooperative Facilities Grant in the amount of $20 million.

"We're already behind the eight ball," noted Superintendent Chuck Ehler. The district has long been working to be included in the legislative bonding tour for the 2011-2012 legislative session. Ehler was only recently made aware that the district was not included on that tour, despite the issue having the attention of local representatives for some time.

Due to this new information, the board has also approved plans to explore a potential agreement with RCS Consultant Peg Larson to assist the board with lobbying the legislature for funding. "She has a thorough expertise and knowledge of how the system works," added Ehler. "She would assist us in setting up a platform with the legislature, to create a united front. I would be great to have her on board to coordinate and be an advocate for the district."

Larson has already made encouraging recommendations to the district, including having Representative Greg Davids draft a separate bill for the district's needs so the district would not have to rely solely on the Minnesota Department of Education. "It's an assurance that it will get the attention that we need to get," noted Ehler. "I have knowledge of the workings of the system, how much grease we can put on the wheel in our best interest, but she could be that person for us," he stressed.

While the board agreed it would be a worthwhile venture, there was some concern over cost, which Larson said could be as high as $8,000. "We want to get all the steps right," added board member Greg Smith. "It's going to be worth a lot if it works."

ICS Consultant Gary Benson, who has worked with the district thus far on the New School Initiative agreed. "Our role is to develop the project further and to continue to engage the community. A lobbyist can open doors and connect you with the right people. They can really open those doors. It's your opportunity."

While the legislature is not currently in session, Larson, on behalf of the district, will begin building relationships with Bonding Committee members prior to them getting on Capitol Hill. Work will begin immediately and likely continue through May of 2012. "You won't be disappointed," encouraged Ehler.

Board member Dan Munson will join board chair Kathy Ingram and John Nitecki on the Facilities Committee, which will meet with Larson and ICS Consultants to further the project.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Monday, December 19, at 5:00 p.m., in the high school biology room. Please note the time change. The public is encouraged to attend.

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