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ACGC seeks $15.5 million bond for building updates

Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Superintendent Nels Onstad said the district is asking voters to approve a $15.5 million bond issue to update both the Atwater and Grove City buildings. "I think it's important for people to understand this is investing in schools for our students," he said. "We want to have a safe learning environment for our students and our staff." (Carolyn Lange / Tribune file photo)1 / 2
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GROVE CITY — Voters in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District will decide this fall on a $15.5 million bond issue to update buildings in the district.

The proposal would make improvements at ACGC's elementary school in Atwater, which houses prekindergarten through fourth grade, and the junior/senior high school in Grove City where grades 5 through 12 are located.

"We aren't asking for something brand new," said Superintendent Nels Onstad. "We're asking to update what we have."

Discussions of a possible referendum to seek a bond issue began more than a year ago as facility needs began to pile up for the district, he said.

Maintenance needs cost more than the funds available, Onstad said. In addition, the district had a fire marshal order to improve its fire suppression efforts, including sprinklers, in the aging Atwater building. That school also needs an elevator to improve accessibility to the entire building.

The projects proposed in the referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot include updates to electrical and mechanical systems in both the Atwater and Grove City buildings and remodeling to develop secure entries and improve safety and security in the buildings.

The district had a facility study completed, which determined the building improvement work that would be needed over the next five years.

There was discussion of building an elementary school in Grove City to move all students to one campus, but members of the public made it clear at informational meetings this summer that they were not interested in that option.

The Atwater building needs major repairs or replacements for roofs, windows, doors and masonry work, Onstad said. The 25-year-old secondary school in Grove City needs less work, but some updates are needed.

The safety and security updates in both schools include adding a building-wide communication system, cameras and the ability to lock down the building. Each building would have a secure entry process.

"I think it's important for people to understand this is investing in schools for our students," he said. "We want to have a safe learning environment for our students and our staff."

The district has received a one-year extension on the fire marshal order for fire suppression at ACGC Elementary.

It the bond issue passes, the district would have viable school buildings for many years, Onstad said.

If it fails, "We would really be stressed in order to keep up with maintenance needs," he said.

Options for additional funding are limited, he added. If the district's long-term facilities maintenance funding does not cover what is needed, some general fund money may need to be used to make repairs. "We'd be needing to spend money on systems instead of students."

According to estimates from the district's financial adviser, a home worth $150,000 would pay an additional $106 more in property taxes if the bond passes. A business worth $250,000 would pay $358 more a year.

Agricultural homestead land worth an average of $3,000 an acre would pay an additional 76 cents per acre. Agricultural non-homestead land of the same value would pay an additional $1.52 per acre. A 2016 state law provides tax relief for farmers on bond issues.

Early voting begins Sept. 21 in Minnesota. Residents may vote early at either the Kandiyohi County or Meeker County courthouses, depending on their county of residence.

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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