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Community Commons renovation estimate tops $24 million

Community Commons site, 421 S. Green Ave., New Richmond

During its nearly two-hour meeting on Monday, March 16, the New Richmond School Board heard building reports from both the high school and middle school principals and also discussed the findings of the Leo A Daly report on the Community Commons.

“We recently got a summary back from Leo A Daly, which I think was worked on mostly by Cindy (McCleary) who had worked with us through this process,” said district administrator Jeff Moberg. “She talked a little bit about the process in the beginning with the planning sessions we had, as well as the public meeting for feedback. The summary also goes over the different options and what the costs of renovations would be.”

Almost seven minutes into the discussion on the Community Commons, Moberg got into the numbers portion of the Leo A Daly summary that outlined what costs would be to renovate the different sections of the Commons, as well as the cost to add on a public library.

“Once you got through all the numbers and total them up, the cost gets to be around $24 million-$25 million,” Moberg said. “We don’t have a lot of detail with this yet and we need to understand what levels (Cindy) was renovating to and what this entailed. Even is (Cindy) is over by half of what she is estimating, it is still a lot.

“I think that there is a reality check to the numbers here in the sense that even if they are out there, I think that this is a bill in deferred maintenance that will be hard for anyone to take on. When the roofs go, what are we not going to do in terms of kid programing to put the roof on it. That is the question that is going to face us if something can’t be done with this.”

Many of the board members expressed their concerns with the high price tag laid out by Leo A Daly, especially considering the currently proposed state budget, which would put the district at a deficit if it should pass.

“The nice part about having this (summary) is that the conversation can start now,” said board member Marty Wold. “This doesn’t have a scope of work and hasn’t been competitively bid out, but now people will get a general sense of what we could face if they say this is how we want to proceed.”

Along with the renovation costs, Moberg also presented the costs for demolishing the different sections of the Commons.

“Demolition costs would be around $1.5 million, closer to $1,496,800, to take down the whole building,” Moberg said. “Buildings that are substantial like (the Commons), the demolition work gets expensive. There is a lot of material to haul away and there is a lot of equipment to move those. There is a lot of liability sitting there for us — and I understand that it can be looked at and treated as an asset — but if it can’t be used as one or we can’t afford to bring it to the level we need to … .then it becomes a liability for us. When it becomes a liability, then it competes with what our main mission is and that is to provide the best services we can to kids.”

After their discussion, the board agreed to return to the topic of the Commons at its April 8 work session meeting after the New Richmond City Council has a chance to meet and react to the Leo A Daly summary.

High school report

Earlier in the meeting, high school principal Tom Wissink took time to give his building report, which included talking about the ACT test that all juniors took recently, the school’s STEM Night that took place on Feb. 24 and the Academic Decathlon team taking first place in Division 2 at the state meet last weekend.

A total of 211 juniors took the ACT, with just five students missing the test due to a variety of acceptable reasons. Wissink said that the school closed off two wings to give the juniors enough space and quiet to take the test, which was given over a two-day period. The one change Wissink and counselor Beth L’Allier said might be made to next year’s ACT prep for the juniors would be to spread out the prep time over a longer period of time than what they did this year.

Wissink gave a short presentation on the STEM Night at the meeting, telling the board about the more than 600 people who attended the event, which was two times the number who attended the CTE event the year before. A total of 84 students took part in the event as well, taking part in experiments, presentations and demonstrations throughout the school.

Following Wissink’s presentation, Academic Decathlon coach Jarrod Hamdorf gave a short presentation on the team’s accomplishments this season as well as at the state meeting where the team took third overall in the state while grabbing first place in Division 2. Team members Elliot Smallidge and Colton Jenderney both talked in front of the board as well, telling them about the team’s season and sharing their experiences.

Middle school report

Middle school principal Doug Hatch also gave a short presentation on the going’s on at the middle school. Hatch talked about the school’s annual History Fair which took place last week, the Career Fair, the Science Olympiad team, Model UN and Badger 38.

Other business

• The board approved the resignation of six staff members as well as two extracurricular positions. The board also approved the hiring of two extracurricular positions.

• The board approved a change to the freshman class fees, which will allow students to pay a $20 fee rather than force them to sell magazines to raise those funds. The funds go toward supporting class activities and events such as Homecoming, Prom, the class trip to Valley Fair and the All Night Graduation Party.

• The board approved three Youth Options requests while denying another three requests.

• The board approved the adoption and purchase of new materials for the classroom, including a series of social studies books.

• The board approved the second reading of a revision to Policy 5451.01, which changed the final tie-breaker for the Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarship from a coin flip to a drawing in the event that there are more than two finalists who meet the criteria.

The school board’s next regular meeting will be held on Monday, April 20.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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