Posted 7/10/13 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
Construction of the new Wolf Pup Daycare will begin within the next 30 days following the Watford City City Council’s approval of a $500,000 Roughrider Fund grant during the council’s meeting on Monday, July 1.
The construction of the new daycare facility, which would accommodate 200-plus children, appeared to be stalled because of financing issues.
“We feel that it is imperative that construction on the Wolf Pup Daycare begin in the next 30 days,” stated Jody Renbarger, chairman of the Roughrider Fund Committee. “We, as a community, can’t afford to delay this project.”
According to Brent Sanford, Watford City mayor, without the funding from the Roughrider Fund, construction of the daycare project would not have been delayed until late this fall or possibly to the spring of 2014.
The Roughrider Fund was created several years ago and utilizes a one percent city sales tax to help fund economic development and other community projects. In addition to providing funding for the daycare facility, the Roughrider Fund is also being used to help construct the Wolf Run Village, a housing project that will provide affordable housing to teachers, city and county employees.
“The sooner the Wolf Pup Daycare is open, the better it will be for the community and the people who need daycare,” stated Renbarger.
According to Renbarger, the Roughrider Fund grant will also ensure that the daycare rates will be as low as possible.
“The current plan calls for hourly rates of $4.75 at the Wolf Pup Daycare,” stated Sanford. “But with our fundraising efforts, we are hoping to get that rate lower.”
During Monday night’s meeting, Steve Holen, McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 superintendent also brought the council up to date on the district’s latest demographic projections which show that within the next five years the district will have in excess of 1,600 students.
“Based on the projected enrollments, we will have more students than our two existing buildings can handle by the start of the 2015-2016 school year,” stated Holen. “We’re going to need a third building fairly soon.”
According to Holen, the high school building will run out of classroom space next year and the elementary school, which although was just enlarged, will run out of space the following year.
“We’re planning for 100 students in kindergarten this fall,” stated Holen. “We already have 83 kindergarten students pre-registered and we always get more students right before school starts.”
With the growing student numbers and the need for a new school building, Holen told the council that funding a new building is going to be a challenge.
“One of our biggest restrictions will be our bond limit,” stated Holen. “We anticipate that a new building will cost between $25 and $30 million and our current bond limit is $15 million.”
As a result, Holen anticipates that the district will have to ask the district’s voters to pass a general bond issue.
As a funding option, Sanford noted that if the district and the city entered into a Joint Powers Agreement, it may be possible for the city to own the land and the building and then lease it to the school district.
Sanford also asked Wyatt Voll, city attorney, if city sales tax funds could be used for a new school or an athletic field.
“The state won’t allow the use of sales tax money for a new school,” stated Voll. “But the Roughrider Fund could possibly be used for an athletic field.”
One other option of financing a new school would be to use a portion of the new development fees which are assessed to developers to help pay for a school.
“It’s going to take some creativity to build a new school building with the way that the state of North Dakota limits school districts to build buildings,” stated Sanford. “The lack of schools could be one of the biggest limiting factors to our town.”