It’s been a year since the voters in ISD 601 approved through referendum roughly $8 million in repair work to be completed at both schools. Shortly after question 1 of the referendum was approved, bonds were sold to fund the project, and a timeline was developed. For construction work to be done right, there is a lot of planning that should happen before work begins, and that is true of this project. This past year, architects have been working on the design phase of the project -- listening to staff members who use the areas that are slated for upgrades, developing a “needs and wants” list, redesigning bathrooms to be ADA compliant, bringing in samples of flooring, paint and casework. In terms of planning the major activities, the district is right on schedule -- these fall months were designated for design and development, with final board approval during the regular December board meeting. Bid notices will go out in January, and the plan is to accept and award bids in January, with the majority of construction slated to begin May 26, 2020. We know there are a number of things that can impact construction timelines, including weather and the availability of labor.
An oversight committee has been formed, that includes members of the community -- Randy Rue and Evan Fonder, school board members Dean Duppong, Matt Trujillo and Mark Hagen, Facilities and Maintenance Coordinator Neil Heide, and school administrators Dan Boushee, Dominic Krump and Sue Chase. This committee provides feedback to construction consultants and architects. The oversight committee has kept a close eye on the scope of the project, to make sure we are focusing in on the critical items (plumbing, roofing, etc.) or the “bones” of the project. The committee has also pushed to have uniform color schemes, to promote the feeling of district unity. This committee is also keeping a close eye on budgets.
Some preliminary work did happen over the past summer. Asbestos abatement and refinishing the shop floor and a few other areas in the high school was completed. Additionally, work on the bus garage roofs is happening right now -- ahead of schedule. Last winter’s heavy snow caused damage to some of the rafters, which made it necessary to complete that work this year. The district received an insurance settlement, that when combined with the allocation from the referendum, allowed us to replace rafters, purlins and the tin roof. That project was awarded to local contractors and is near completion.
The elementary school will receive the largest renovations. Upgrades to Magelssen Elementary include: roof replacement, restroom renovations, repairs to the building’s exterior surface, kitchen upgrades including replacement of the freezer, renovation of the stage so the space is usable for instruction, interior renovations including work on the gym floor and classrooms, electrical and lighting upgrades, dehumidification, sidewalk repair, removal of an underground fuel tank, technology upgrades and new furniture and fixtures.
Fosston High School upgrades will include: repair of roofs, repair of the exterior of the building, classroom upgrades including flooring, casework, painting and asbestos removal, restroom renovations, security upgrades, sidewalk repair and lighting upgrades, technology upgrades, and new furniture and fixtures for some classrooms. In both buildings, these renovations will provide for more energy efficiency, will make classrooms healthier, safer and more modern, and bring the facilities into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
Prior to start of construction, district staff will work to move and store items so that there is unhindered access to the construction areas. Summer school activities will most likely take place in the high school, as will the summer food service program.
As a result of the referendum, you may notice an increase on your payable 2020 tax statements. However, the state legislature did pass an increase in the Ag to School credit, so agricultural properties will not see as large an increase as originally anticipated. The credit for 2020 has been raised to 50%, and is scheduled to increase to 70% by 2023. What this means is that taxes on agricultural land will actually decrease, with the state providing aid to cover the amount that would have been taxed to farmers. The school receives the same amount of money to put towards debt service; local taxpayers have a smaller burden. Additionally, the state is picking up a greater share of operating referendums than in previous years, which provides additional relief to taxpayers. A truth in taxation meeting is scheduled for December 19 at 6:00 pm in the high school conference room, for taxpayers that have questions about their 2020 property taxes.
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