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School board awards demolition contract, disappointed with master plan

The New Richmond Board of Education took the next step toward the demolition of the old middle school building by selecting Eckert Wrecking to demolish the structure. (Photo by Jordan Willi)

With a bid of just under $400,000, the New Richmond Board of Education at its Nov. 21 regular board meeting approved Eckert Wrecking Incorporated of Rhinelander, to demolish the old middle school at 421 S. Green Ave.

“With great excitement, based on our previous estimate, we bring to you a recommendation from ATS&R to go with Eckert Wrecking, and they are out of Rhinelander,” District Administrator Patrick Olson said.

“The range of bids we got ranged from this [$393,338] to about $800,000 as a base bid. In total, we had 15 … bids that came in. The timing of our bid process, with the construction being planned for the winter months, paid off for us and the work itself also played into the bids we got being lower than we originally thought they would be.”

The board had set a timeline to have a contractor bid brought to the board for approval at its November meeting, but the bid being so much lower than expected was a surprise to the board members.

The $393,338 bid comes from a break out base bid of $182,627 for labor and $210,711 for materials. The contract will be in the form of a performanced based bond.

“ATS&R said they haven’t seen this low of a rate since the 1990s,” said director of fiscal and building operations Brian Johnston. “There just isn’t a lot of demo work out there right now. There is plenty of construction work, but not a lot of demo work. So they are fighting to get the demo work when it comes along.”

The next lowest bid for the demolition job was $398,000, with the highest bid being $805,000. Many of the bids received were below $500,000, which made the administration feel like the low bid wasn’t an anomaly and that the company would be able to deliver what the district requires at a cost close to bid.

Old middle school update

The other big subject discussed during the meeting was the City of New Richmond’s master plan draft that was presented to the board at its last special meeting.

The meeting’s purpose, according to Olson, was to allow the city to gauge the board’s feelings toward the plan as it was at the time and to give the city the chance to feel out what would give the plan the best chance to be approved.

The board, as a whole, was disappointed and displeased with the draft because it did not closely adhere to the overall ideas/goals set forth by the board for the old middle school property. Those goals previously established by the board included it being used as a community space that serves the interests of the district.

“I would say that all of their plan is off the ‘path’,” said board member Marty Wold. “All of it. In the interest of the taxpayers who we are doing this for, we might have to just tell the city that we can’t agree to their plan and let it go for a while. Maybe we should just leave it as green space and wait until there is a time that we can come to an agreement or find someone who wants to buy the property.”

According to the deal between the city and the school board for the sale of the old middle school property, the city must deliver a master plan for the board’s approval at the December board meeting, which, at the Nov. 21 school board meeting was rescheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 20, 6 p.m.

“However, with what we have seen from the city, I’d say we have reason to be concerned with their plan,” said board president Rick Hinz.

“I hear them say the word ‘community,’ but I feel like that there is a lot of effort and a lot of interest toward the financial aspect of that property.”

The board said they do not want a formal presentation at the December board meeting and would just like a copy of the final draft.

“In summary — of what the board wants to say to the city — to protect the best interests of all the residents in our district, the draft plan does not meet the expectations of the board,” Olson said. “We feel like we are too far apart as far as what we feel the best needs are for this property at this time. It is not closing the book, but at this point, in the best interest of everybody’s time, the draft that you have is certainly not what the board envisions this property being.”

Despite the board’s displeasure with the master plan draft they reviewed at the special meeting, the group said they would be willing to see what the city comes up with by December in the hopes that it will better reflect what the district wants for the space.

But the board won’t put much consideration into approving the final version of the master plan unless they see changes, specifically getting rid of all of the mixed-use commercial use and space, as well as not including a road through the property in the final version of the plan.

Those two items are dealbreakers for the district if they are included in the plan presented to the board in December.

“I think what we are trying to say is that if what they are coming back to us with in December is this — exactly what they brought to us in November — then the answer we will be giving them is that we will not be proceeding,” said board member Paula Kolbeck.

Other business

— The board approved a second change to the December regular board meeting date, moving the meeting from Monday, Dec. 12, to Tuesday, Dec. 20.

The board meeting was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but was in conflict with the high school holiday concert that is scheduled for the same night and time.

— The board approved the the probationary creation of a Spanish Club at the high school.

— The board approved the raising of Tiger Pack supervisor Rachel Twedten’s salary to $47,476 to keep her exempt from the new changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which states that in order for a salaried wage earner to be exempt from the overtime rules, they must make a salary of at least $47,476. The old rule was $23,600. The raise is an increase of $1,677.

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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