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School Board learns about BRIC Grant option
Boscobel Area
Boscobel School District

BOSCOBEL - The Boscobel School Board heard a presentation about FEMA’s ‘Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities’ (BRIC) grant program. Jordan Buss of JBAD Solutions LLC attended the Board’s May 9 meeting to explain what kind of funding might be available to the district through the program to build a tornado safe room, and how his company could assist the district.

“I founded my company after I successfully wrote a grant for the Spencer School District Board, of which I was a member,” Buss explained. “We were successful in securing a $2.19 million grant, as well as passing a referendum, and the grant allowed the district to reduce the amount the district added to the tax levy.”

Buss explained that in the course of navigating the grant application, administration and reporting process for his home school district, he realized that the grant program, and expertise he had gained, could be helpful to other school districts in the state.

“The grant program in its current format started in 2019, after the Stafford Act was passed by Congress, requiring that a fixed percentage of all disaster declaration recovery expenditures be devoted to the grant program,” Buss told the board. “As of last year’s cycle, I had been successful with six of the nine grant applications I had helped to submit.”

Proven track record

Buss said that in the 2020 cycle he’d helped with five applications, none of which were funded through the BRIC grant program. But, he explained. FEMA also provides each state with discretionary ‘Hazard Mitigation Grant’ funds, for which the application process is substantially identical. Of the five applications not funded through BRIC in 2020, two of those had been funded through the state program administered by Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM). Buss said that it is highly unlikely that a district would be funded both by FEMA and WEM.

The BRIC grant is intended by FEMA to ‘break the cycle of federal disaster funding for repeat damages to infrastructure,’ and to help communities become more disaster resilient. FEMA, according to Buss, estimates that for every $1 spent through the BRIC grant program to build resilience, the federal government and communities save $6 in disaster recovery expenditures.

“If you were to be funded by BRIC to build a tornado safe room, the room would conform to FEMA P361 construction standards, which would allow the structure to withstand a direct hit from a tornado,” Buss explained. “The district could use the space for other purposes on an every day basis, as long as it could be transformed to a safe room and made available to the community within five minutes.”

Preliminary estimate

Buss ran through a very preliminary estimate of what grant funds might be available to the district, what dollar amount the district would pay in local grant cost share, what size safe room that would allow them to construct, and how many people the safe room could shelter in a tornado emergency situation.

The preliminary estimate for the middle school/high school showed:

• FEMA funding: $2,586,470

• Local cost share: $1,228,979

• Safe room size: 8,500 square feet

• Shelter population: total 975 (middle school/high school students 435, residents 385, businesses 155)

The square footage of the “room,” would include a 6,500 square foot main use area, 100 square foot storage area, 200 square feet men’s/women’s restrooms, 1,400 square foot hallway/entry area, and a 300 square foot mechanical room.

“With the preliminary estimate I’ve presented, your project would have a cost/benefit ratio of 1.9, with the target being 1.0 or greater,” Buss explained. “Other successful applications I’ve submitted have had ratios of 1.89,1.76, and 2.51.”

The calculation for funding would exclude residents in the City that would need to cross a floodplain to reach the shelter. This is for purposes of calculating funding, and would not mean that those residents would be denied entry to the safe room in the event of a disaster. The district would also be favored for funding because Boscobel is considered to be in a ‘high risk’ area for wind damages, according to the FEMA map.

Buss also provided an estimate for funding that included the elementary buildings, but said that receiving such funding would be contingent on the district demonstrating to FEMA that those students and staff could reach the shelter within five minutes of notification of an imminent tornado emergency.

The timeline for submitting an application for the 2022 funding cycle is:

• Application period - October 2022 to the third week of January 2023

• Selection announcement – summer of 2023

• Anticipated award date – December 2023

Buss explained that his fee structure for assistance to the district requires a $10,000 retainer fee. After a district receives a grant, then his work with the district’s chosen architect, and in grant administration, would be paid out of the grant funds. He emphasized that the district could use any source of funds to pay the local cost share except funds secured from any other federal grant, for instance ESSER funds. He said that ESSER funds could be used to pay for ‘ineligible costs,’ for instance any cosmetic features of the constructed space, such as paint, etc…

Administrative reports

Middle School/High School Principal Wally Byrne reported that ‘end-of-the-year’ activities were in full swing. He said that the recent Prom event had been a great success, and that plans were in place for the upcoming Honors Awards ceremony, Baccalaureate ceremony, Senior Awards, and Graduation, which is planned for May 28, starting at 11 a.m.

“Our softball team remains undefeated in conference play, with a victory today,” Byrne said. “Pitcher Greta Grassel will be the athlete of the week, and is a finalist for ‘Player of the Year’ as well.”

The Elementary School report shared that the school would celebrate Earth Day on May 10 at the Paul Brandt School Forest, and that elementary students had an exciting line up of field trips planned for the month of May as well.

“The end of the year is here and we are finishing up projects, and assessments, getting in those last pieces of learning, planning field trips, and gearing up for our end the year picnics and celebrations,” Elementary Principal Danelle Schmid reported. “The halls are buzzing!”

Director of Facilities and Grounds Nate Copsey reported that summer projects planned include concrete work, flooring work, updates to the conference room, painting in the library, water fountain replacement, door replacement between the wood and metal shops, installation of new dishwashing equipment, and more.

District Administrator Lisa Wallin-Kapinus reported that plans were in place to honor retiring district staff for their years of service. Those staff include Randy Streeter (36 years), Mary Mischel (42 years), Walter Byrne (16 years), and Rhonda Zart (11 years).

“With this years retirements, there is a total 105 years of service to the district that we are losing,” Wallin-Kapinus said. “We have planned a celebration for staff to honor their years of service on May 25, at 2:30 p.m., in the Bulldog Café.”

Old business

In ‘old business’ on the agenda, the board addressed school board officer elections, social media administration, and pandemic protocols.

The officers on the board remain unchanged, with Todd Miller as president, Wendi Stitzer as vice president, Kaye Woods as clerk, and Casey Updike as treasurer.

After discussion about the merits of continuing the one-year $9,500 contract with SocialSchool4EDU for school social media administration, versus hiring internally for the role, the board voted to continue the contract. They agreed to spend the next year developing information point people within the school to supply information to be shared, and to evaluate whether they could hire school employees to take over the function.

The board also voted to continue with the current pandemic protocols, including sharing school metrics on the website, through the end of the school year. As of June 6, pandemic protocols and dashboard will be removed from the school website.

In other business

In other business, the board:

• voted to give professional, administrative, and support staff, and bus drivers, a 4.7 percent wage increase in the 2022-23 school year

• changed the forfeiture fine structure for teaching staff that ask to end their contracts

• purchase a new school bus for $105,985

Spend $16,250.13 of ESSER II funds to update the school’s custodial equipment

• ask that bids for concrete work during the summer be resubmitted, since errors were found in one estimate

• renewed contracts for JR Consulting for audiology services, Sweep 1 & 2 for shared maintenance equipment, SWCAP for building use, and Southwest Technical College for driver’s education

• accepted the 2022 Open Enrollment applications, with potential 68 students open enrolling in, and 121 students open enrolling out

• approved a request from Mr. Ostheimer to take seven students on an overnight FFA field trip on June 16 to the State FFA Convention.