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North Crawford readying fitness center referendum
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At their rescheduled meeting Thursday, Dec. 26, the North Crawford School Board approved steps designed to place a referendum on the spring ballot for building a fitness center at the school.

Following an explanation of the situation by North Crawford School District Administrator Dr. Dan Davies, the board agreed with his recommendations and approved hiring a registered municipal financial advisor and a law firm, which specializes in municipal bonds. Davies explained hiring the consultant and the attorneys was necessary to sort out the financial situation and create a bond referendum authorizing the construction of a proposed fitness center at the school.

It is the board’s intention to put the $1.2 million fitness center before the district voters in a referendum on the spring ballot. The district contacted Carol Wirth, the President of Wisconsin Public Finance Professionals, to answer questions about the referendum’s impact on the tax levy. During that conversation, the question of how private activity might affect the bond status as taxable or tax-free came up. The private activity associated with the fitness center involves the relationship between the school district and Vernon Memorial Healthcare with whom it is partnering on the fitness center.

VMH has proposed to provide staffing and equipment maintenance service at the facility, as well as run a community-oriented program similar to the fitness center it runs in Viroqua. This would be in addition to the school’s use of the fitness center for phy ed classes, sports and wellness activities.

The structure of ownership, leasing and other factors between the district and the healthcare provider will determine whether the bonds issued can be tax-free or taxable. Taxable bonds would be more costly to the district in terms of interest payments.

The board also authorized hiring the Madison-based law firm of Quarles and Brady to draw up the appropriate bond documents. The work of the financial consultant and the bond attorneys must be completed and approved by January 16 to be able to meet a deadline for the spring referendum to be placed on the ballot.

After some discussion, the board agreed the next meeting to be held with the consultant and the bond attorneys should be scheduled based on their availability.

Local resident Ritchie Stevenson asked if the district had completed studies on the financials of the project at this point. He questioned whether the plan was properly vetted. He also wondered whether a cash flow analysis was done.

Davies said some of that work was done by the architects in the planning phase. The district administrator explained the board had reached a point where it was now ready to put a referendum before the community to see if it would support the construction of the fitness center.

Stevenson asked if the school would own the fitness center.

Board president Mary Kuhn assured Stevenson the school would own it. Kuhn also explained the school district was not interested in being in the fitness center business.

Earlier in the meeting, Tarasa Lown the administrator of the school’s federally funded PEP Grant, discussed a survey given to people attending the school’s holiday concerts. The survey outlined the district’s intention to have a referendum on the fitness center and outlined some the opportunities and benefits the fitness center would provide.

The response to questions about the fitness center were, as might be expected, overwhelmingly positive. By essentially a margin of 42-2 respondents affirmed they believed the fitness center would be a benefit to North Crawford students and the community. They also responded by the same margin that they and/or a member of their family would use the proposed fitness center if it were constructed.

When asked to identify the level of support for a referendum for this proposed fitness center, respondents indicated there were 77 household voters that would support the school referendum, 14 that may support it and only 4 that would not support the school referendum.

Despite the overwhelming support found in the survey, Lown cautioned that the school’s holiday concert audience was not representative of the electorate as a whole, having a much greater interest in what was happening at the school. She referred to the sample as “a captive audience.”

Lown told the board that the district was making a presentation on Monday, Jan. 6 at the Gays Mills Village Board meeting in the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center at 6 p.m. There will also be a presentation on the proposed fitness center at a Soldiers Grove Village Board meeting in the Soldiers Grove Community Room adjacent to the library and village office on Thursday, Jan. 9 at 6:30 p.m.

Following Lown’s presentation, North Crawford girls track coach Ed Heisz asked the board to consider options for resurfacing the school’s track with a rubberized surface as part of the overall PEP Grant Fitness Center initiative. He noted the plan had been discussed about seven years ago. The cost is about $100,000. The track coach said the recently completed upgrades to the asphalt track make it an ideal moment to rubberize the very solid and improved base.

Heisz explained a rubberized track was important to minimizing injuries to track athletes and would greatly reduce shin splints.

The rubberized track can go about seven or eight years before resurfacing is necessary at a cost of about $6,000.

In other business, the North Crawford School Board:

• held a lengthy discussion on whether the athletic code needed revisions and how input on the code should be solicited from the coaches and community

• approved a change in the attendance rule affecting participation in evening activities and agreed to notify all students affected of the change

• approved changes to the course offering handbook offering physics and applied science in the 2014-15 school year to help students get more options to have three credits in math and science as required for the class of 2017

• heard a glowing report on the work of an athletic trainer from VMH at the school every day for an hour or more, as well as being present at every home varsity sports event

• approved three volunteer wrestling coaches: Jared Grimsled, Jesse Olson and Keith Davenport

• approved a job description for the business manager-bookkeeper position that requires a four-year degree

• accepted the resignation of board member Michael Bedessem, who has moved out of the district

 • tabled action on filling the board vacancy, created by Bedessem’s resignation, until the next meeting