School board pleased with citizen input on buildings

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Costs range from $22 to $29 million, but tax impact said to be reasonable

By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News


In late January, Benson Public Schools brought together three groups of District 777 residents to give it input on where its priorities should focus for building improvements.

Results of the meetings were presented at a special school board meeting at noon last Thursday in the superintendent’s office at BHS. School staff and school board members were pleasantly surprised by the support they found among the groups for the significant upgrades that are needed.

Farmers/landowners, school district staff, and business owners/community members met in their individual groups Jan. 29, 30 and 31 to review the current condition of the district’s building and educational needs of its student now and into the coming years. Forty-five people participated in the meetings.

Overall, the farmers/landowners group supported work totaling $17.56 million, the business owners/community members $20.99 million and the school district staff $24.72 million.

To each of these amounts, another $4.5 million is needed simply to address the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning renovation costs of district buildings. The HVAC work brings the total work proposed to between $22.01 million to $29.2 million.

Paul Youngquist, of Rego + Youngquist, Inc., told school board members on a conference call at last Wednesday’s meeting that the groups were not that far apart. He has worked with districts where one group could come in at $12 million and another $32 million.

All the groups agreed that it is imperative that the district’s buildings be very attractive and “vibrant.” For people to notice change there has to be a change they can drive up to and see. It is the pleasing curb appeal that will help bring new people to the school district, they said.

One person who was in the groups said that people don’t come to the school and go sit in a classroom to see how the teacher is doing, but they do walk around the building getting an impression. That impression can be of a rundown facility or one that voters take pride in keeping up.

At the time of the 2015 building levy referendum, this thinking was not on anyone’s radar, Supt. Dennis Laumeyer said.

Those at the meetings also strongly recommended holding off the referendum until Aug. 14 or Nov. 6. The board had earlier approved going to the voters May 8. The May date was considered too soon to have the plans in place and educate the district’s voters on the projects....


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