BOLD School Board seeks path forward on massive facilities needs after $62.6M bond rejected
BOLD School Board members are looking for a way forward to address the district's facilities needs after voters rejected a $62.6 million bond. Board members are open to discussions with neighboring districts and options such as remodeling, but face some urgency after hearing a report on deficiencies in current facilities.
OLIVIA — BOLD School Board members are looking for a path forward after voters overwhelmingly rejected a $62.6 million bond in a Feb. 9 referendum.
In a work session held Monday, board members voiced differing views on how to go forward. They remain in agreement on the need to address the district’s facilities needs, and believe voters feel that way too.
“Doing nothing is pretty much out of the question. We have to do something,” said board member Theresa Jacobs.
By margins of 336 to 1,549 and 183 to 1,649, voters rejected proposals to bond for a new preK-12 facility with a 500-seat auditorium on the Olivia Hospital and Clinic and for an athletic/activities complex adjacent to it.
Jacobs was among the board members who expressed a willingness to meet with counterparts at neighboring school districts to consider the possibility of a joint facility.
The Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart School Board is willing to meet for talks, according to Superintendent Dale Brandsoy.
Board members said they’ve also heard interest from community members in the Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop School District about possible cooperation.
Board members also expressed interest in creating small committees or hosting small group discussions with residents in the BOLD district, especially with those who had opposed the rejected proposal.
They said they want to keep the lines of communication open with the Olivia Hospital and Clinic on its proposal for a shared wellness center. The members said they also believe those talks should be paused until the district decides on its direction.
They differ on how far “to go back to the drawing board.”
“I don’t think we can go all the way backwards,’’ said member Jamie Bohlin. She was among the members who expressed concerns that the district cannot afford to take two, three or more years to resolve its facilities issues.
They got a sense of the urgency as Denny Spielmann, the district’s building and grounds supervisor, began to outline a litany of issues the district faces with its existing facilities. He started by outlining an estimated $975,000 worth of roofing needs at the Bird Island and Olivia campuses.
There are millions of dollars worth of other needs to address, starting with safety. Spielmann voiced his concerns for students in the Olivia facility due to vulnerabilities in the security system.
“Yeah, we’re probably safe in a rural community, (but) if you get a loose cannon out there, we’re not safe,” he said.
The maintenance supervisor described a long list of issues the district has confronted: They include water flooding a basement area and reaching a live electrical system. He talked about urine leaking from bathroom urinals into an underground tunnel used for moving air to classrooms.
He reported problems with collapsed sewer lines, severely corroded steam pressure pipes, and a heating and ventilation system for which parts can no longer be obtained. There are issues with water leaks on the Olivia school walls, and windows where a change in wind can blow papers off desks, according to information presented to the board.
Board members discussed the need for an emergency levy to address some of the key issues. Ryan Hoffman, consultant with ICS, told board members that the district would not likely qualify for an emergency levy. They are allowed for damage caused by storms or other events.
He said the district’s most viable option would be to go to voters for a bond issue for millions of dollars to repair the immediate needs while it develops a long-range plan.
The work session was held Feb. 22 before the regular school board meeting. Spielmann lacked the time to outline all of the facilities issues that he wanted to call to the board members’ attention. At the urging of board chair Jill Hanson, board members agreed to hold a work session March 1 to continue the discussions.