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

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Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Community Opinions

Moose Lake School Bond Referendum

 


Osten Berg, Moose Lake

In late 2017, I sent an email to the Superintendent Indihar and the school board members expressing my concern about a lack of access for emergency vehicles to the rear of the school. The only response I received was from Jamie Jungers who saw the same need and concern I had. He has argued for that access consistently.

Throughout the next months, I was advised that the Superintendent was going to contact me about the road but it never happened. However, a large new storage building was constructed with a blacktop driveway to it, money that could have been spent on an access road.

A majority of the school board passed a resolution according to what I was advised, to NOT have an emergency access road for police, fire or ambulance. I wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the January 31, 2019 edition. I explained the need for this access and that it had lifesaving potential in any emergency that might occur at the school. Since I had no response from the School Board or Superintendent, my intent was to get some dialog from concerned parents about the lack of access. To the date of this letter, no concern has been shown by the board or Superintendent for the safety of the children. The Superintendent has not even provided the fire department with an overview of the school building and the location of the numbered doors and where they lead.

I viewed a City Council meeting in which Superintendent Indihar spoke about the proposed bond issue that there is not going to be an emergency access road. In response to a question on an emergency vehicle access road, he stated that there was going to be a cross country trail around the back that could be used as access. A trail is not an emergency access road. While trying not to question the level of intelligence of that statement, which he has made a number of times, how do you correlate the weight of a number of students on a trail to that of a police car, ambulance or fire truck? It just does not add up. In other words, the safety of your children is not important to him and a majority of the School Board. The ability of emergency services to rapidly access the back of the building is not even on the list of what should be done or is going to be done.

Apparently they are above the law as I quote from the Minnesota State Fire Code, Section 503.1.1 which requires “the installation of fire apparatus access roads for all new buildings when any portion of the exterior wall is more than 150 feet from the furthest point of fire apparatus access.” There are fire hydrants around the back of the building that are useless and at this point, no access, and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

I understand that our new school has not been inspected by the State Fire Marshall. What will be found that needs to be changed or in violation of state fire codes when that happens. What may be a potential cost of any issues found?

I am not against recreational facilities for our children and have been involved in a number of these in the past. We should not be caught up in “complete our campus” at the expense of childrens’ safety. A number of the issues being resolved with the bond pertain to failures to look at our childrens’ safety.

At this point, I can only state that I and many of those concerned about safety will be voting NO until such time as the majority of the board and the Superintendent become responsible to safety needs.

Jim Gerdes, Sturgeon Lake

Since there is a lack of information on this upcoming vote, I will try to simplify the issue. I do not work for the school nor have any children there. My only concern is to improve the quality of the community.

Five years ago voters approved a bond issue whereby the State picked up at least 60% of the cost over the life of the bond. There were a few items not included to reduce costs. In hindsight they should have been included, but hindsight is easy to review. BUT now we have a second chance to correct the few omissions with the State still picking up 50% of the cost. The price will never get better.

Question #1 would include a larger parking lot, moving the baseball field from downtown, a softball field, including restroom facilities, and lighting to cover the above areas. Also included are some security cameras and an ECFE playground.

Question #2 would include lighting the football/softball and baseball fields, and a concession stand.

Here is the math: For a $150,000 tax assessed home, the increase would be a $20 increase per year for question #1. For question #2, the increase would be an additional $18 per year. For a $200,000 home the numbers are: Q1, $29 additional per year, and Q2, an additional $25 per year tax.

We will never get these items cheaper with the 50% State assistance.

Don’t get caught up in trying to confuse recent cuts with capital additions. The improvements mentioned above are long term and improve security and safety. Annual cost cutting sometimes has to do with changes in school populations which fluctuate annually. Also, do not vote because of personal issues with the School Board or Superintendent. They all want the best value just like you and me.

I am strongly supporting Q1, and the tax impact is two cups of coffee per month for me. I am not convinced that Q2 is needed, however the State picking up 50% is appealing as well.

You can pick up diagrams at the school office which show exactly how each item is laid out. I suggest you do that. Also, you can contact the superintendent for more detail. I have tried to make it simple.

You must vote on Q1 before you vote on Q2. You cannot just vote Q2.

Sue Pedersen, Silver Township

I was the one that hung the Taj Mahal tag on the new school. Now I can’t believe that we taxpayers are again being attacked for more money. What about an explanation for where the $34.7 million went? I have Superintendent Indihar’s breakdown of where the $34.7 million would be spent.

It states $750,000 for demolition of the old school. Not only is it NOT demolished, it was sold for $250,000. That’s one million dollars not accounted for!

It states $700,000 for a new bus garage. There’s no new bus garage!

It states $2,000,000 for a “contingency fund.” And this $2 million was spent on what?

This is $3.7 million unaccounted for. They should NOT get any more taxpayer money until they clearly explain what they did with this extra $3.7 million.

And then the part that really gets me is $2.7 million for “professional fees.” Where were the “professionals” when they were building the narrow hallways? It has been quietly hidden about the $2 million needed to move the lockers into the classrooms, which should be a hilarious issue in itself. We the taxpayers should NOT be paying for this screw up. The architects who managed and oversaw the construction should have “errors and omissions” insurance, and Superintendent Indihar, who clearly did not have the knowledge to be signing off on building plans, should have a percentage of his salary garnished for X number of years. Enough is enough!

Kim Bohnsack, Moose Lake

I support the referendum. Please vote yes for the upcoming May 14th bond.

Steven Blondo, Split Rock Township

As a parent, a community member, and an elected board member, I am in support of the referendum. I understand that my property taxes will be raised but know that my tax impact from the bond will equal about $1.50 per week. When we all come together to support a project, our dollars add up.

We live in a vibrant and wonderful community! Our taxes pay to construct and improve our roads and infrastructure, our hospitals, our government, and our schools. Think of a community without any of those elements and it isn’t much of a community.

The value of American public education has been understood since our country’s beginning. Citizenship is about responsibility and support of our community. Educating future generations is our duty as citizens.

What does it mean to educate our children? To me, education is more than academics. Students need to be prepared to lead successful lives. Activities and athletics support academics and academics support activities and athletics. A successful school is a well rounded school. Moose Lake is a successful school. Preparing students who will be active participants in society is a multifaceted and ever changing process. We have a commitment as citizens to do all we can to support all aspects of public education and our children as they grow into adulthood and become the next generation of leaders.

Being a Board Member has given me an opportunity to better understand the moving components of public education. School finances have rules about where money can be spent, and success in academics and athletics is controlled by a vast number of moving variables. Nothing is black or white, nor as easy as appears. An example of this is the recent budget decisions made by the Board. Day to day operations are funded by a separate pot of monies than construction and maintenance of the building. Decisions made by the Board need to balance and address immediate and future needs to be successful.

In 2014, Moose Lake School District came to voters asking for their support in the construction of a new school to replace the aging and flood prone 80+ year old facility. Thanks to state equalization, our tax dollars were given a boost, and stretched to a point where the project was feasible. Despite differing belief in the need for and cost of the project, voters approved the bond and construction began. We moved into our new school in the fall of 2017. It is a beautiful facility, a safe facility, a facility that supports the education of our students, and a facility we, as a community, can be proud of.

Unfortunately, as with any project, some items were left unfinished. Why? Because as a district we have a fiscal responsibility to our constituents that spreads across day to day spending to the acceptance of bids for purchases (including construction projects). Completion of the new school was divided into a number of tasks, each with a separate bid package. The cost of the project ran under budget until the final bid package for work was opened. The proposed cost exceeded what was budgeted. With a single bidder, we were faced with a choice - take the bid and finish the school (no longer under budget) or open the bidding process the following year and wait to complete the school. We decided it was more important to finish the school and accepted the bid. The ripple effect was felt, and items we had planned for with our “extra” money had to be cut. We were heartbroken that some aspects of the facility would remain unfinished, but happy to see the school project completed.

Today we have an opportunity to pick up where we left off and complete our campus. We have looked at our options, reminding ourselves of our fiscal responsibilities to our district residents and believe approving the bond referendum is our best option. We considered not completing the project, or even waiting until we had capital funds to do the work. In these scenarios, there would be no tax impact, and in return, congested parking during school events, no playground for our youngest ECFE students, and athletic fields in which events could only be attended as SRO (standing room only).

We looked at passing a Board Approved Abatement Bond, which would result in not giving our residents a say in their taxation and less revenue at a considerably higher tax impact. When the option of seeking a voter approved referendum, supplemented with state equalization aid was identified, it did not take us long to realize this was a great opportunity. ask district residents to support a bond that takes full advantage of state equalization aid. With this option, we not only get to a point where we can utilize our campus to its fullest extent, but as tax paying residents, we complete the project with less tax impact than was in the original 2014 bond.

I thank you for your support of our school, for your trust in my leadership as a board member, and your consideration of the wonderful opportunity in front of us with a YES vote on the May 14th Bond Referendum!

 

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