BOLD School Board moves building project ahead
School board members will meet Thursday to finalize a $58.95 million proposal for a new preK-12 school on the campus of the Olivia Hospital and Clinics. The proposal must be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education for review and comment this week if a bond referendum is to be held in February, as board members intend.
OLIVIA — BOLD School Board members are a step closer to putting a new school project to voters in February.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday, board members approved an estimated $58,950,000 proposal to build a new school facility on the campus of the Olivia Hospital and Clinics in Olivia. Board members will meet again Thursday to give final approval to the proposal. It's possible changes may be needed to meet any concerns raised by the Department of Education.
Board members must submit the final proposal to the Minnesota Department of Education for review and comment no later than Nov. 13 in order to hold a bond referendum in February, according to Ryan Hoffman, ICS Consulting.
The proposal now being developed for submission to the Department of Education includes these key elements:
- Building a 149,000-square-foot, central facility to hold prekindergarten through grade 12 on the health care facility campus.
The facility would include 2.5 gymnasium stations, meaning the district would continue to rely on use of the gymnasium at the Bird Island elementary campus or the Olivia High School/Middle School campus until the Olivia Hospital and Clinics builds a wellness center adjoining the new school. It’s expected that the wellness center will include a gymnasium or similar space available for physical education.
- Building a 500-seat auditorium as part of the new preK-12 facility. It’s estimated that construction of the auditorium would cost $4,380,000, but that related costs for parking and additional land acquisition would raise its total cost to about $6 million.
- Transferring ownership of the Bird Island elementary campus to the city of Bird Island and setting aside $2.5 million in bond proceeds for its use. The original building proposal included $600,000 for razing the 98,000-square-foot Bird Island facility, originally built in 1917 and expanded in 1937, 1956, 1968 and 1998. Board members decided to offer the $2.5 million instead in response to a proposal by a committee created by the Bird Island Economic Development Authority that is exploring the possible repurposing of most of the facility by possible private owners. (See related story.) The school district is hoping to see the large gymnasium saved with intentions of leasing it from the city or a private owner.
- Voters in the February referendum would be asked to approve a second ballot question for a proposed $6 million project to develop a football, track and athletic facility as part of the new school on the health care campus. It would require purchasing additional land. The proposed $58,950,000 project approved at this point includes approximately $1 million for needed maintenance to allow the continued use of the existing athletic facilities in Olivia if a new athletic complex is not developed.
Board members approved the proposal after agreeing to keep the monthly impact of a new building project to no more than $20 on a residence valued at $100,000. ICS Consulting developed four different building options for board members to consider. The options were developed with expectations of razing the Bird Island facilities. The Bird Island exploratory committee sent a letter to the district over the weekend outlining its desire to see an estimated $6 million in work undertaken there.
In discussions, school board members indicated their support for the Bird Island proposal. Including bond funds for the Bird Island project would help win voter support for a new school overall, board members said.
There is a limit to how much the school can provide to the Bird Island proposal, however. Bond funds that are ultimately used for a private-owned property would not enjoy the same tax advantages as those sold for a school, Mike Hoheisel, the school’s financial consultant, told board members. The portion of bonds used for the Bird Island proposal would carry a higher interest rate.
Also, Hoffman and Superintendent Dale Brandsoy said they would determine to what extent the Department of Education would approve school support for the Bird Island proposal. A favorable review of the project by the Department of Education is very important, Hoffman said. Without a favorable review, a bond must have the support of more than 60 percent of the voters in the referendum to be approved, rather than a simple majority.