Maintenance budget for schools being readied for February meeting

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Over the next few weeks, the Benson Public Schools administration will be preparing its recommendation for priorities on an estimated $14.2 million facilities maintenance plan to be implemented over the next 10 years.

It will also further research the role the school district could play in establishing expanded child care programs for the community. It will bring its proposals back to the school board at its Tuesday, Feb. 21, meeting.

As it looked at the amount of work needed simply to maintain the Benson High School, the Junior High School, and the Northside Elemetnary School, the school board formed a facilities task force to look into the work required. It was formed to give district residents input into the proposals that would eventually be put before the school board and taxpayers.

That task force has met four times since the end of August going over financial plans and budgets, enrollment projections, and touring the buildings seeing first hand the work that needs to be done, Supt. Dennis Laumeyer said at the board of education’s Jan. 23 meeting.

As the task force assessed the needs of the district and its buildings one thing became clear, he said: “Number one, we have to do maintenance.”  

That maintenance is estimated to cost $14.2 million and includes upgrading electrical, mechanical, and structural components of each of the three buildings. The school board and administration will be assessing whether it will tackle all the work in the next decade or cut the budget back and only target some of the work.

Options for using the current indoor swimming pool area for gymnastics, classrooms or even a shop have been explored, but the options aren’t cheap.

The task force has also looked at options for expanding day care in the community that includes adding six classrooms onto the west side of the Northside Elementary. This project could cost an estimated $3.2 million

Adding rooms at the Northside would also mean adding a new kitchen and cafeteria at the Northside, which would cost around $2.1 million. That cafeteria would free up the Northside’s gymnasium space, which is currently used for breakfast and lunch. It would also provide a multi-purpose community room that could be used for a variety of events.

“As we get toward the end of January, we need to start making some plans and put things together to get on the schedule of some of the contractors,” Laumeyer told the school board. “In my mind, that is the first thing to look at.”

There are a lot of irons in the fire for projects that need to be done in the community from the school, to the city, to the hospital, to the county, School Board Member Andy Abner said. But the school board has to move forward by Feb. 21 meeting, or by its March meeting at the latest, with plans to seek bids to maintain its buildings.

“That is what the community asked us to do,” he said. “It is our job to do that. We have to do that first no matter what.”

The school district has already got the ball rolling with researching day care options and there is a fair amount of community support on that right at the moment, Abner said.....


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