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Helmut Schmidt, Published November 07 2012

Voters reject $6.2 million Fergus Falls schools facilities bond issue

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – An attempt to get approval for $6.2 million in bonding to upgrade school district athletic fields here was rejected by voters on Tuesday by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin.

Two other Lakes Country school districts, Fertile-Beltrami and Frazee-Vergas, were successful in getting operating levies passed.

“We’re definitely disappointed that it didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” said Blaine Danielson, chairman of the Fergus Falls “Vote Yes” committee.

Danielson and Superintendent Jerry Ness said a couple of issues worked against the measure.

It was a tax, even though the measure was timed to take the place of another bond issue being paid off.

Ness said the city and Otter Tail County governments had also raised taxes – about 11.5 percent for the city to help pay for a new police station, and about 4.5 percent for the county.

“This was an opportunity to say no,” Ness said.

Voter turnout was high – more than 90 percent, Ness said, making it hard to educate all of the voters on the measure.

There were 5,402 votes against the measure and 4,588 for it.

Ness said the school board will meet Wednesday in a work session to canvass the vote, and then work through an analysis of the vote and the district’s needs.

Chief among those immediate needs are to make the football bleachers structurally sound and handicap-accessible, Danielson and Ness say.

Ness said the board will get more input from the community.

“We’ll have to regroup and go at it again,” Danielson said.

Much of the proposed work was to occur at Kennedy Secondary School. Plans included construction of an eight-lane track and field complex, with a football and soccer field within the track; a handicap-accessible bleacher system; two softball fields; eight tennis courts; concessions stands and restrooms; more parking and a maintenance garage; and an environmental learning center.

A regulation soccer field and practice field would have been built at Cleveland Elementary and a fenced baseball field would have been built at Roosevelt Elementary.

The measure was supported by the Fergus Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau as a way to bring more athletes and their families to the area, pumping up area businesses.

The Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce didn’t take a position.

Funding approved

Fertile-Beltrami voters emphatically agreed to renew a $1,200-per-pupil operating levy.

The measure passed with 970 of the votes cast, or 69.3 percent, to 429 votes, or 30.7 percent.

That allows the levy to continue for another 10 years, beginning with taxes payable in 2014.

The Fertile-Beltrami district has 455 students.

In Frazee-Vergas, voters agreed to renew $700 of the district’s $1,000-per-pupil operating levy, which was soon to expire.

The measure was approved by 1,866 of those voting, or 55.6 percent. Opposing it were 1,555 voters, or 45.4 percent.

The old levy finishes its five-year run on June 30, 2013, Superintendent Chuck Cheney said.

The new levy, which will last for five years, will net the district $830,000 a year to help meet the costs of educating its 900 students, Cheney said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583