The Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee heard from city officials about the plans to upgrade Riverside Arena and from Superintendent Robert Indihar about the request for $20 million in funding for a new Moose Lake school when it visited the school on Tuesday, October 1.
The committee was on a tour to the sites that have requested funding in the next Legislative bonding session. The committee members had visited the prison just before coming to the school.
The details about planning the upgrades to Riverside Arena was described to the Senators.
A vision was developed through the Age to Age group with the overview of the Northland Foundation. An architect was hired and drew up a design for a new addition that would house restrooms and changing rooms that were up to code.
The benefits of upgrading the arena were to: Expand the regional benefit of the community center, strategically located as a tourism driver, diversify and maximize the use of the Riverside Center, and create wealth for the City of Moose Lake, owner of the arena.
The Legislature has been asked for a $600,000 grant, with matching funds provided by local government and private donations.
Moose Lake Mayor Ted Shaw explained that, after the flood, while the city was still tallying the areas damaged by the flood waters, repair work was started on the arena to prepare for hockey season. He said the city invested $75,000 to repair and replace portions of the arena that had been damaged in the flood. It did not qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds or flood insurance.
Talking points that Supt. Indihar brought up were that Moose Lake and the Rushford-Peterson schools were old buildings that had experienced a flood in 2012. A bill had been introduced in the Legislature last year to seek $20 million in funding for each school district for replacement of the school buildings. The bills were not successful in being passed.
Supt. Indihar spoke about the three failed local referendums before the flood, and the referendum that failed 2 to 1 last spring.
“This is a unique situation,” he said. “Moose Lake is not only on the loser’s side, it went through a flood that exacerbated the whole situation.
“Seventy-five percent of the property within the city is non-taxable. A small portion of property taxpayers have a huge burden. The flood did extensive damage. We don’t know what the long-term effects are going to be. We have seen four large cracks in the wall on the back of the stage that weren’t there before, and the downstairs hallway floor is wavy. Water was running under the building. There may possibly be some shifting.
“Is it wise to build a building here?”
Supt. Indihar went on to describe the other upgrades needed at the school, such as new roofs and more security.
Unequal equity for other school districts in the state was brought up by Supt. Indihar.
“What the citizens of Moose Lake have to pay for a new building is not equitable with what other districts have to pay,” he said. “The flood made our situation significantly worse.”
After the presentations Supt. Indihar took the committee members on a short tour of the school and showed them the areas that had been affected, such as the shop. He said that he was also going to take them up on the roof and show them the proximity of the lake to the school grounds.