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Published April 19 2010

D-G-F mulls referendum

There’s a touch of irony in the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School District’s recent experience with the federal stimulus package school construction program.

When the district landed stimulus dollars to cover interest on a $4.5 million bond funding school repairs last year, it was allowed to act without taxpayer approval. Now the district must go to voters before it can sell a $620,000 bond, again with the federal government pitching in for the interest.

That’s because the smaller project involves 1,200 square feet of new construction.

D-G-F just wrapped up approval of bids on the $4.5 million project – bids school officials say prove it’s a great time for facility makeovers. Now they have to decide whether to conduct a bond referendum for the $620,000 project.

“This is a very small amount of money, but yet we need to go to voters,” said Superintendent Randy Bruer.

The Lake Park-Audubon, Minn., district, which scored interest on $17.3 million under the same school construction program, will consult taxpayers in May.

The $4.5 million D-G-F project involves a slew of repairs and energy-efficiency upgrades at its two schools, including work on roofs, lighting, heating and ventilation. Johnson Controls, a Milwaukee-based company with a Fargo office, pitched the project last spring. The firm guarantees more than $70,000 in energy savings a year.

In December, the district sold the $4.5 million bond, which residents will pay off over the next 15 years. It raised taxes on a $100,000 home by about $10 a year.

Then, it was time to bid out the work.

“We had anticipated that given the economic situation, the time would be good for bidding,” said School Board Chairman Jerry Anderson. “We didn’t expect it would be this good.”

Last month, the district approved bids for $114,000 worth of air handling units. Last week, the board signed off on $2.16 million in construction, plumbing, electrical and roofing jobs. The district also spent roughly $800,000 on small-ticket items that don’t need to be bid out, such as water heaters and hand driers, Bruer said.

Johnson is being paid $36,000 for its project management services.

Although the district received only one bid for three of the jobs, Johnson Account Executive Dave Bergeron said, “The bids came in outstanding.”

As a result, D-G-F has almost $1 million left over, which will allow it to do more extensive roofing and other repairs.

“We’re getting more bang for our buck because the bidding climate was so good,” Bruer said.

The district had to separate the $620,000 project out of its original application for the federal Qualified School Construction Bonds program. During the first round of the program, Minnesota did not allow new construction.

With that money, the district wants to expand its Glyndon cafeteria, which is getting crowded with recent increases in elementary enrollment. To do that, the district would move its senior high offices to a new 1,200-square-foot addition near the gym entrance.

That entrance is popular with visitors, who now walk the length of the building to get to the office. Moving the office to the entrance will improve security in the building, Anderson said. “It will be just one more means of knowing who’s in the building,” he said.

If the district conducts a referendum, it will likely be at the August primary election or in November. The $4.5 million project is slated for completion by this fall.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529