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Helmut Schmidt, Published March 26 2013

$2.3M gym for Centennial Elementary approved

FARGO – Centennial Elementary School will get another gymnasium this summer.

The Fargo School Board voted 7-2 on Tuesday to accept nearly $2.3 million in bids for the project.

The project was expected to cost $2,250,000. But bids were higher than expected.

To make the project work, the Fargo Park District, which will run some of its programs in the gym, agreed to increase its share of the project cost from $260,000 to $320,000, while the school district trimmed parts of the project. The school district will pay $1,990,000 toward the project.

The bids totaled $2,298,472.67. The cash available of $2,310,000 adds a cushion of more than $11,000 on the project to the $30,000 budgeted for contingencies.

Board members Kris Wallman and John Strand voted against proceeding with the project.

Strand had three objections: that the gym will be built by deficit spending; that no one knows how the gym will fit into the district’s next facilities plan; and that the cost is one-fifth to one-quarter of a new elementary school, “an urgent need” in the city’s far south.

Board member Rick Steen countered that the gym has been a need for four years. While the next facilities plan may call for other school construction, “I think we need to take care of the school we have (with) 600-plus kids in it,” he said.

Wallman said that with the district’s finite resources and competing priorities “it seems to me to be a pretty good idea to set it aside.”

“We do need this gymnasium,” Paul Meyers said. “We’re going to have to come up with a way to pay for it regardless. … Centennial is not going to go away.”

Business manager Broc Lietz said the project cost is about $141 per square foot. He said the cost was higher than that seen for other school building projects in the area because it involved renovation and work on mechanical and heating and cooling systems as well as construction of the 13,200-square-foot gym.

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