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Helmut Schmidt, Published March 31 2013

Fergus Falls votes Tuesday on school facilities plan

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – A $5,475,000 plan to revamp the bleachers and other athletic facilities at the Kennedy Secondary School complex goes before school district voters here Tuesday.

The plan is $970,000 cheaper and more focused than one defeated in the November general election, and school board officials say feedback this time around is more positive.

“Our ‘Vote Yes’ committee reported back that they had scheduled a couple nights to call people … and after one night, they cut it off,” said board Chairwoman Melanie Cole. “Nearly everyone they had spoken to had a favorable impression. I’m no Pollyanna, but that gives me a positive outlook.”

“We’re cautiously optimistic is the correct way to say it,” said board member Matt Lemke.

The project includes building two softball fields; eight tennis courts; a football/track/soccer complex with an eight-lane track and new, handicapped accessible bleachers; expanded parking; expanded green space for physical education with an irrigation system; and an environmental learning area.

Cole said the concrete is cracked and crumbling on the athletic complex bleachers, making them unsafe, and they don’t meet handicap accessibility standards.

A maintenance building and concession stand were combined to cut costs, Cole said.

The project needs a simple majority of those voting to be approved, Lemke said.

Cole said the project was downsized, in part because members of the public said having work done at Kennedy and Cleveland and Roosevelt elementary schools created too complex of a proposal.

Work at the elementary schools now will be done using funds in the school district’s budget, she said.

A 1994 bond referendum that was used to build the science wing and media center at the old high school expires this year.

Homeowners in the school district now pay $24.16 per year on a $100,000 property.

If the new bond is approved, that tax would be replaced with a lower levy, about $17.69 a year on a $100,000 home, a tax impact statement on the district’s website shows.

The grid also describes the tax impacts for agricultural, commercial, seasonal/recreational and multi-family properties.

Cole hopes the community feels fully informed.

“I’m excited because of the positive hum. We will see,” Cole said.

For information on the referendum and location of polling sites, visit www.fergusfalls.k12.mn.us and click on “Outdoor facilities bond referendum.”

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