Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 3, 2003

Joint-use talk dominates LP board meeting

By Julie Yurek

Joint-use talk dominated the Lester Prairie School Board meeting last Monday evening.

Board members discussed the progress of recent joint-use meetings, and answered questions from a lone Lester Prairie citizen who inquired about the joint-use facility.

The board agreed some decisions needed to be made regarding the joint-use facility before the project can move forward.

Decisions regarding location, tax impact, and what is in the facility need to be nailed down, said chairman Fred Blaser.

It is hard to make such decisions at the joint-use meetings because so much time is spent catching newcomers up with what has happened so far, Blaser said.

"We keep covering the same ground at the meetings," he said.

A solution to that would be to have a written handout to give residents who are attending the meetings for the first time, Blaser said.

Blaser also mentioned that many residents are wondering about the tax impact on their homes, he said.

Tax impact information has to be available to the public, said board member Robert Remer.

"We could put a tax impact calculation in with the informational handout," said board member Nancy Krull.

Supt. James Redfield and Krull will work on that handout, Redfield said.

The board also agreed that a larger media center, kitchen, and cafeteria were needed, as was another gym and remodeling the science rooms to bring them up to code, were important items for the school district, be it in a joint-use facility or in a remodeled school.

"Even if we don't add another board to this building, we still have to do something no matter what," Blaser said.

"We would still need to bring this building up to code, whether or not a joint-use facility is built," Redfield agreed.

The board will meet with TSP to go through a checklist of what the district needs in the facility Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. February's school board meeting will be that evening also, beginning at 6 p.m. due to President's Day.

The board agreed that the joint-use meeting set for Thursday, Feb. 6 should be rescheduled for a later date because there will not be any new information until the Feb. 13 meeting.

"How can you continue with a joint-use facility until you know the city is joining?" asked Diane Prehn, a Lester Prairie resident.

"Every time we asked the city, the city said yes," said Krull.

"Did you ask the public? Did you send out a survey?" Prehn asked.

"How many surveys have we had?" Blaser asked.

The city conducted a city-wide survey last summer with questions regarding a joint-use facility. Responses were in favor of a building with a media center, gym, and multi-purpose rooms.

"Why does the school need another gym when it's gone all these years with just one?" Prehn asked.

"It was built for boys only sports basically," Hoernemann said.

"When I went to school here 20 years ago, I had more kids in my class than you do now using the gym, and we never had a problem," she said.

"When you were going to school, did you have kindergarten through fourth grade having basketball, fifth and sixth grade girls basketball, fifth and sixth grade boys basketball, junior varsity basketball, ninth grade basketball and trying to schedule all those in?" Krull asked.

"Did you know two local farmers just sold their cows, Sterner Lighting laid off workers, and how many senior citizens in low-income do we have?" Prehn asked.

"Then you want this big, huge . . . No, I'm not for it at all. I'm for remodeling the school; if the roof leaks, get it fixed, but not for adding a gym for sports or a community center," Prehn said.

"How long are we going to have our jobs with all these companies merging and everything else?" she asked.

"That's a problem everywhere, be it in Minneapolis or Lester Prairie," Hoernemann said. "That doesn't mean we have to stop educating our kids."

"Before you can pay TSP more money or go further with meetings, you have to decide if you want a community center or just remodel the school," Prehn said. Prehn told the council she had heard TSP, the architect firm, was getting paid about $60,000 to work on the project, she said.

"We aren't paying TSP," Redfield said.

"Well I have no idea," Prehn replied.

"How did you come up with that figure?" Krull asked.

"I heard it at the last meeting (Jan. 23)," Prehn replied. "So TSP is not getting paid at all?"

"The contract is based on a successful referendum," Redfield replied.

"Understand, we are starting with what the state says we have to have," Hoernemann said. "We have to do some things in this building."

"I'm for that," Prehn replied.

"A gymnasium per square foot is cheap space. It doesn't cost anywhere near what the rest of the building would cost and we do need one simply because of scheduling," Hoernemann said.

"Wasn't this school built that you could go up on the top?" Prehn asked.

"It was at the time it was built, but since then the standards and requirements for building up have changed and we no longer qualify to go up," Blaser said.

"It was the first question we asked, 'can we go up?' when we started talking about this," Blaser said.

"Some people are building here just for the fact that it's cheaper. It doesn't mean they're going to send their kids to school here," she said.

"But if we let the school deteriorate, then they won't. That's a guarantee," Hoernemann said. "I've heard people say 'we can't attract people here because we don't have a good school,' and 'we can't afford to build a school because we don't have people.' It's a paradox; it doesn't work."

"We either have to build a school so we attract people, or else let it (the school) go and kids won't be able to come here," Hoernemann said.

"It still doesn't mean they're going to send their kids here," Prehn said.

"Taxes won't be any less if they go somewhere else," he replied. "It costs us X amount of dollars whether they go here, Glencoe-Silver Lake, HLWW, or Mayer. That's not going to change."

"Why is it a joint-use when the school would be using most of it?" Prehn asked.

The school needs the support of the community, and not necessarily the dollars, Hoernemann said. "You don't just build it to educate the kids and not let the community use it."

"It's joint in that the bonding is better for the state aid from the state for the school to build it," Redfield said. "It's definitely joint in the concept of the city helping with the maintenance, personnel, and that kind of thing."

There isn't much difference in what the building would have whether it's a joint-use or a school facility, said board member Barry Kyllo.

"Just remodeling is not even an option. If we do anything, it's going to have to be adding on," Remer said. "We have to build something; we can't just remodel."

"Why can't you only remodel?" Prehn asked.

"Because we lose classroom space by remodeling," Hoernemann said.

"The science labs do not meet code. To meet code, they need to be larger, which cuts into other classrooms," Krull said.

"The Department of Education said the older elementary classrooms are too small, and if we start to do any remodeling they need to become larger, which will cut down the number of classroom spaces," Krull said.

Also, the kitchen and cafeteria is outdated and too small, Hoernemann said.

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