Following a lengthy presentation at their meeting last Thursday, the North Crawford School Board moved closer toward placing a referendum to fund the construction of a school-community wellness center on the ballot.
School board president Mary Kuhn introduced the agenda item as “one last review of everything to do with the wellness center.”
Kuhn indicated the intention is to have a vote at the next board meeting on whether to go to a referendum on funding the proposed fitness center or not. Later, a board meeting was scheduled for Thursday, May 22 to consider a wellness center referendum.
Tarasa Lown, North Crawford’s Pep Grant Director, started the presentation with a review of the federal grant, which will pay for all of the exercise equipment to be housed in the wellness center if it is approved and constructed.
Lown reminded the board that the PEP Grant committed $800,000 in federal funds over a three-year period to the school for the purpose of enhancing the wellness and fitness of students, staff and ultimately the community. North Crawford was responsible for matching the funding with $200,000 and has largely accomplished that by in-kind contributions of staff time and planning.
Under terms of the grant, students and staff were to be the only ones making use of the equipment and programs developed with grant funds during the three years of the grant cycle. However, after those thee years, the equipment and program can be opened to the community. The wellness center would be eligible for use by the community on July 31, 2015 according to Lown.
If the referendum passes in August of 2014 and construction begins in the spring of 2015, the facility should be open late in 2015.
North Crawford High School phy ed teacher Judd Eastman reminded the board of the far-reaching goals of the pep grant to improve the curriculum and make lifelong fitness a reachable goal for the students.
Kuhn emphasized the school is a “cornerstone of the rural community.” She explained that as students are exposed to the concept of lifelong wellness through the school’s curriculum and then graduate, they will be able to continue their efforts to stay fit at the wellness center as adult members of the community.
Dan Blumer, an architect for the LaCrosse-based HSR Architects, reviewed the history of siting and developing the plans for the proposed wellness center.
HSR initially proposed a larger and more expensive building. But during discussions with the school board and representatives of Vernon Memorial Healthcare, the price of the building was decreased from $1.7 million to $1.3 million and the size of the wellness center was reduced from 8,500 square feet to 6,500 square feet.
Most of the architect’s work on the building is done, Blumer told the board. About all that remains is picking out finishes, shingles and things of that sort.
Eastman told the board that fitness equipment would include an emphasis on range of motion, cardio fitness and strength conditioning.
Kuhn questioned whether equipment would also include adaptive phy ed options for those with physical handicaps. Eastman assured the board president that those considerations were taken into account and some of the equipment was built for children confined to wheelchairs. Several representatives from Vernon Memorial Healthcare were on hand to present their perspective on the fitness center and to affirm their role in staffing the community portion of the operation.
“Vernon Memorial Healthcare has been interested in the project from day one,” VMH CEO Administrator Kyle Bakkum told the board. “It fits with our mission.”
Bakkum noted VMH has had a strong presence in Soldiers Grove for the past 20 years, owning the Kickapoo Valley Medical Clinic and more recently the pharmacy.
VMH Manager of Corporate and Community Health Services Angie Dahl informed the board that VMH intended to provide the kind of services it makes available at the fitness center in the Viroqua hospital.
“We want to duplicate those services at North Crawford,” Dahl said.
Dahl sees the service being available to active seniors at $1 per visit and to other community members at a reasonable monthly rate. In answer to a question from the board, Dahl indicated VMH anticipates having 100 members in the fitness center, not counting the active seniors.
North Crawford District Administrator Dan Davies said he envisions the number of community members using the wellness center growing as a result of the school’s curriculum emphasizing healthy lifestyles. More graduates will turn to using the facility. Davies sees the number growing significantly in seven years. Dahl thinks there will be an increase in just three to five years.
“I see this as not necessarily for today, but more about tomorrow,” Davies said of the proposed wellness center.
Bakkum, the VMH CEO, explained that by keeping fit health costs would ultimately be driven down. He believes fitness efforts like the proposed wellness center will increasingly be supported by insurance.
“It’s important to us to keep our small communities strong in a variety of ways,” Bakkum told the board.
Following the presentation the board heard from Allison Buchanan, an attorney for Quarles and Brady in Madison, who will be responsible for wording the referendum that will be presented at the next board meeting. She told the board that the referendum would have to be approved by the board before May 29 to be placed on the Aug. 21 ballot.
After some discussion with Buchanan and financial adviser Carol Wirth it was decided the referendum should seek authorization to secure a loan for $1.3 million to be repaid over a period of 20 years.
A calculation of cost to taxpayers annually would be the addition of $45 annually for a $100,000 property.
Wirth, the President of Wisconsin Public Finance Professionals, told the board that the current interest rate for a 20-year loan was 4.25 percent. However, she cautioned that rate could increase during the course of the loan based on any fluctuation in interest rates.
There was some discussion of whether installing an outdoor rubberized track, as part of the project should also be put on a referendum in the same ballot. Advantages and some costs for a rubberized track were discussed with the board at a previous meeting by girls track coach Ed Heisz.
Dr. Davies told the board that in conversations at a recent convention he came to understand there are great differences in costs, quality and performance of rubberized tracks.
North Crawford Director of Maintenance Harry Heisz indicated there were many considerations to be taken into account to understand the total costs and benefits of a rubberized track. For instance, Heisz indicated it might be necessary to construct more bleachers to accommodate football fans who currently stand on the school’s asphalt track to watch games, but would not be able to stand on a rubberized track because of the wear.
It appeared that a second referendum on construction of a rubberized track would not be prepared for consideration by the board.
In other business, the North Crawford School Board:
• agreed to supply student insurance through Student Assurance for their low bid of $11,268
• approved a contract with Southwest Tech again for the driver education program
• allowed the creation of the Carmen Armbruster Scholarship through a donation of former school board member Lynne Teach
• renewed the WIAA High School Membership
• approved a contract with CESA #7 for a software program used in developing curriculum
• renewed a contract with VMH for an athletic trainer to be shared with the Seneca School District
• accepted the retirement of paraprofessional aide Pat Gilbert
• tabled the bread bid
•was informed there were no blacktop bids to consider