Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By A. R. Vander Vegt
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Willow River approves new playground sets


October 25, 2018

Provided photo

The school board commended students who performed well on spring MCAs, and each student received a certificate and a handshake for their hard work.

Students who performed well on their Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments last spring received commendation from the Willow River School Board at their regular meeting Tuesday, October 16.

Superintendent Bill Peel kicked off the time of recognition, saying, "We want to recognize our students who excelled. ... Each board member will shake your hand and congratulate you."

The recognition followed the opening of the meeting. As a testament to students' diligent work, the board room was packed, each seat taken and parents and family members lining the walls to join in the proceedings.

In total, 52 students received recognition for excellence in achievement.

A couple of large-scale projects were discussed by the board and ultimately approved.

Peel presented numbers to replace both the kindergarten and elementary playground sets.

Discussion of purchasing the playground sets occurred at the Facilities/Activities Committee on October 3. No recommendation was made from the committee as members wanted to have an open discussion at the regular school board meeting.

Peel cited safety concerns as impetus behind replacement of the sets. Both sets are about 28 years old. Timing wise, it works well with the switch from pea rock to wood chips, which will occur over the summer. While the board could "delay on (the) playground sets," the replacement of the pea rock is part of a grant which expires September 2019.

Board member Aziz Al-Arfaj pointed out installation of a new set would coincide best with the pea rock replacement. If the board chose to wait, the new wood chips would have to be removed for installation - an added expense. Current recommendations state mulch should be replaced every five years.

The quotes given to the board from GameTime - nearly $50,000 for both sets - are good for 30 days. The cost of the sets would be fronted by the district.

Ideally, total installation cost would be reduced, as Peel hopes to recruit volunteers for installation in summer 2019. If enough volunteers aren't committed to the project, though, the district could potentially pay out $13,000 for company installation.

What about repairs on the old set? Board member Gerard Bennett wanted to know.

Peel stated, "Instead of repairing (the old equipment), it would have to be blocked off." Though parts of the old set that are in good condition could be kept, otherwise it will be disposed of.

In addition to volunteer installation, Peel hopes that fundraising in the community can help offset the cost. The money for now would come out of Willow River's operating capital, and Peel is "hoping to get at least half back on fundraising."

In a later email, Peel broke down the cost of the new sets. "The total price for both playground sets is $49,960, minus the $13,401 grant and $4,941 discount, for a total purchase price of $31,618 for the sets. Shipping is $4,163.86. The total price the district will have to front is $35,781.86."

Before approval of the purchase, board member Connie Mikrot recommended long-term planning be implemented in anticipation of playground replacement in the future. Peel agreed, stating funds should have been set aside since the last replacement.

The sets will be shipped in December and then stored until summer installation.

The board also approved a $23,000 purchase of sound absorption panels for both the elementary and high school gymnasiums. Peel reported that it is "hard to instruct, hard to hear" in the gyms. In the Facilities/Activities Committee report, it is noted, "During events in either gym, the noise level can get extremely high. In some cases, we have students who require ear muffs when playing in either gym."

Installation would occur over Christmas break and was recommended by both the Finance and Facilities/Activities Committees. The funds are made possible by the LTFM Bond.


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