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MACCRAY voters will go to polls on bonding question

CLARA CITY — Voters in the MACCRAY School District will go to the polls Jan. 7 to decide whether to bond up to $20 million to build a central elementary school and fine arts building at the high school in Clara City.

As a crowd filled the high school cafeteria Monday to hear debate on the issue, board members voted 5-1 in favor of putting the measure up for a vote.

School board members Tim Smith, Lane Schwitters, Carol Thomton, Scott Ruiter and Jason Boike voted to put the measure on the ballot; Debi Brandt cast the no vote.

Brandt expressed concerns about how the issue has divided the MACCRAY communities, but said her vote came after hearing a presentation that evening by a consultant retained by the communities of Raymond and Maynard. Stevan Dewald, president of Lightowler, Johnson & Associates, told board members that the elementary schools could be upgraded to current standards for costs well below the estimates provided by the school consultant, Energy Services Group of Wayzata.

Dewald said the MACCRAY East School in Raymond could be renovated for $5.6 million as compared to a $9.3 million estimate from Energy Services Group.

The MACCRAY West School in Maynard could be upgraded for $4.9 million as compared to Energy Services Group’s estimate of $9 million.

Brandt noted that if voters approve the $20 million bond issue, they are committed to contracting with Energy Services Group as the project architects, even though they now have a much more affordable option to consider. The district has to “wake up and look at that,” she said of the cost difference.

School board chairman Lane Schwitters said he could not overlook the projected annual operating savings of $300,000 calculated if the district builds a new, centralized elementary. Schwitters said a new building would better serve the district as a whole, and he expressed concerns about maintaining buildings that were a half a century old.

Member Tim Smith offered the resolution to put the measure to the ballot, stating that it was important to put “what’s best for the kids” in the forefront.

The board action followed presentations by members of the public on the issue which made clear how split the feelings are over the issue.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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