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Judge's order gives two taxpayers partial victory in suit against Yellow Medicine East

Yellow Medicine East

GRANITE FALLS -- A district judge's order gives a partial victory to two taxpayers challenging how the Yellow Medicine East district financed over $10 million worth of improvements to its high school and elementary school buildings in Granite Falls.

It also creates a potentially prickly dilemma for the district, which will have to re-examine a portion of the financing.

In the order filed Monday, District Judge Randall Slieter determined that $7,261,856 financed by alternative facilities bonding was authorized by law. The work met the standard for health and safety improvements, and no referendum was required to issue the bonds.

However, the judge found that $2,807,121 of the project using alternative facilities bonding was not authorized by law. The work did not directly address health and safety.

The two sides will meet February 13 to begin the process of determining how to remedy the situation, since the financing has already been obtained and the improvements completed.

Plaintiffs Scott Wintz and Patrick McCoy, as taxpayers in the district, had challenged the financing for the improvement projects since no referendum had been held. The district took advantage of federal, Qualified Zone Academy Bonds for the work and estimates that it saved $4.7 million in interest costs by doing so.

In his ruling, the judge ruled that all of the work focused on improving ventilation in the school buildings met the standard of representing health and safety work.

Work outside of ventilation improvements- mainly adding new hot water piping and fire sprinkler systems- did not qualify.

Tom Cherveny

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

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