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Board OKs building new road behind school to stop congestion

WILLMAR -- A new road and bus parking area should help relieve congestion around Roosevelt Elementary School next year.

On Monday, the School Board approved a contract with the city of Willmar to build the road from 15th Street Southwest to Roosevelt.

The $373,000 road and parking lot will keep bus traffic north of the building and car traffic to the south before and after school. Currently, cars and buses all use the south side of the building.

The school district will pay the city for the project in 10 annual payments, with interest. The money will come from a separate capital improvement fund and will not come from school operating funds, said Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard.

Board member Mike Carlson said he has had questions from the public about the Roosevelt road proposal. He asked Kjergaard to address several rumors, including one that the district has been ordered to build the road for fire safety.

"Nobody is forcing us to do this," Kjergaard said. "What I sought to do was to deal with traffic problems."

The project will also give the school district more room for parking for special events, too, he said.

Board member Wayne Lenzmeier asked if the road would belong to the district or be a city street. It would belong to the district, Kjergaard said.

"It's not a through street," he said. "The reason we're doing this is to get buses on one side and cars on the other."

It may be possible to swap the Garfield school to reduce the district's payments to the city, Kjergaard said. "We haven't worked out the deal yet," he added, but talks are continuing.

The city has expressed interest in acquiring the Garfield property, which is adjacent to an existing city park.

"It is too good a deal for us to pass up, in my opinion," Kjergaard said.

The district reorganized its schools last summer, leaving two of its four smallest buildings empty. Washington and Lincoln buildings are now empty. Willmar Community Education and Recreation is headquartered in Jefferson Learning Center. The Area Learning Center is in Garfield.

Kjergaard said after the meeting that the ALC would move to Lincoln if the city eventually owns Garfield.

The district also has a written offer for Washington, Kjergaard said. The board will likely discuss that offer at a May 24 workshop meeting.

The board voted Monday to schedule the workshop meeting.

In addition to discussing the offer for Washington, Kjergaard said the board should talk about possibly holding an operating levy referendum in November.

The board has not decided yet whether to ask for an operating levy. However, a levy of $498 per pupil will expire in another year, and board members have discussed asking voters to renew it a year early. They have also discussed asking for a higher amount.

Kjergaard suggested having a financial adviser at the May 24 workshop to discuss alternatives.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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