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R-P takes another step in exploring new facility

Fri, Nov 23rd, 2007
Posted in Education

RUSHFORD - The R-P school board took another step on their path to exploring special funding for new school facilities by approving the hiring of ICS Consulting of Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, for architectural services.

"I want to be clear that I am not advocating moving ahead (with a building project) unless we can secure significant funding from other sources rather than our local property owners," said superintendent Chuck Ehlers.

After a public meeting on October 24 on the topic of facilities, a board subcommittee of Roger Metz, Daniel Munson, John Nitecki and Ehlers met informally with representatives from ICS, a firm that specializes in school facilities. Legislator Gene Pelowski also attended.

Metz called the event a "good informational meeting" because ICS really "knew what they were talking about."

The others agreed, with Nitecki emphasizing that the process is still purely "exploratory."

Ehler said that a preliminary ballpark figure for a new facility is about $24 million, which, in addition to a new facility in Rushford would include several million to improve the Peterson building with new windows, roof, and updated classrooms.

Ehler is proposing the district ask the state to commit to at least 75% of the costs. The rest would then fall upon the district, but both Nitecki and Ehler believe additional funding options might be secured to assist with the district's share.

But before securing financing, it is necessary for the district to have a plan outlining their needs, according to Ehler, which is why the board agreed unanimously to hire ICS. The agreement with the firm would include pre and post referendum services in the amount of $23,800. The board asked that the district be allowed to terminate services early, if need be.

"Someone from the state (education) office is not going to tell us what our needs are-we need to tell them what we need," Ehler explained.

Last month Ehler proposed the idea of seeking financing from the state over and above what was typical, in the aftermath of the August flood.

To date, the cost for flood clean-up and repair of the Rushford school building has exceeded $600,000, a small portion of which is covered by insurance, and the rest by FEMA and state funds.

In a related topic, Ehler informed the board that a requirement of receiving the FEMA funds is that the district needs to invest in flood insurance. Working with agent Butch Johnson, Ehler brought forth a proposal that would cover up to $100,000 in future flood damage ($5,000 deductible) for a little over $1,200 a year. The board approved.

The monthly board meeting started with the annual auditor's report from Darwin Viker of Larson Allen.

Viker reported that the district's finances are "fine, at this point in time," with a general fund balance in the black.

But Viker reminded the board that the next two years could be tough with the Minnesota legislature increasing education spending by only 2% and then 1% for the next two years, respectively. That increase will not even keep pace with inflation, which will challenge all districts in the state.

Associated Bank has donated twenty five computers to the district, and Ehler has also secured an arrangement whereby Winona State University is "adopting" R-P, making the district the lucky recipient of 35 laptop computers used in WSU's laptop rental program.

In other business, before closing the meeting to discuss staff negotiations, the board-

• hired Mike Honken as head Boys and Girls golf coach, Jesse McNamer as Girls 7-8 basketball coach, Rachel Burt for long-term substitute for Lille By preschool/ ECFE, Jessica McNamer for part time Kids' Club staff.

• accepted the resignation of Mary Jo Adcock as elementary aide.

• approved medical leave for Roger Boyum through December 15.

• approved a variance for Community Ed. Director Beth Theede who has not yet completed her community ed. certificate.

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