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School board debates referendum timing
Looking at closing three buildings
BES plan
Proposed building plan by HSR Associates for a single campus school.

The small size of the crowd in attendance provoked concern from at least one board member at last Thursday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

The Boscobel School Board met with only six members of the public in attendance to discuss plans for addressing the school districts building needs and a possible referendum resolution.

“We didn’t get the public more involved before, so how do we get them here now, get them involved in what we are trying to do?,” board member Derek Zimpel asked, looking earnestly to both those members of the public in attendance and representatives of HSR Associates and Kraemer Brother who were present to discuss the buildings.

Zimpel also expressed concern about the timeline to develop both a resolution and plans in time for the April ballot. That concern was echoed by board President Todd Miller.

“Are we going to be too rushed?,” asked Miller. “Would we be better off to wait until the November ballot for the buildings? A referendum for funding operations has to happen in April. Is this too much to get done right now?”

These concerns were raised by the preceding presentations and discussion of moving to a single campus for all students.

The school board is currently planning to put a spending resolution to the electorate asking for permission to exceed the revenue cap for operations expenses. Work to determine the amount the school district will ask for is still being worked out through budget planning.

The earlier presentations were part of deciding whether to place a second question to voters asking for permission to borrow money to address structural and maintenance issues.

Any referendum resolutions must be approved in January in order to appear on the April ballot.

HSR President Bradley Simonson and Kraemer Brothers Vice-President of Client Services Greg Callin both assured Zimpel and Miller that it would be better financially for the board to move forward on the April ballot.

“If you choose to go with the November ballot, that would effectively push back construction by almost a year,” explained Callin. The reality is costs will go up, inflation will go up. It will cost more the further out you go.”

Callin and Bradley presented a three-phase plan that would address all of the issues in need of correction at the high school, while building an addition housing the elementary in a separate wing conjoined to the high school by a new, larger gymnasium, cafeteria and commons spaces, and district offices. The plan would also revamp the parking areas and provide a secure recess area in a courtyard created by the addition.

To do the entire project would cost an estimated $20 million and would leave the district with three unused buildings.

If done in increments, Callin did suggest that the issues with the high school be addressed first. He suggested using the numbers proposed by H&H Energy Services for the referendum, in that instance.

“We haven’t looked in depth at these and they haven’t been competitively bid,” Callin noted. “It could end up being less, but it gives you a number to begin with. Any savings goes right back to the school district taxpayers.”

School operations advisor Steve Wacker explained that the Rock School is protected as a historical structure and could potentially go to the historical society.

“We really do need to close down some of the buildings if we are going to make it,” Wacker said.

Operating multiple buildings greatly increases the district’s operational costs, Wacker said. He pointed out that doing two phases would lower the cost of the project and allow them to possibly close two of the buildings.

Simonson noted that with the right developer the elementary could be made into apartments, a possible use that could help make the property more saleable in the event of the district abandoning its use.

The collected group discussed possible variations of the plans and what could be done with the properties in the event of the district vacating them, as well as the need for civic involvement in the process.

It was agreed that more discussion is needed. Another meeting will be held on January 4 at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria. Members of the school district are encouraged to attend.