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School board lowers new school bond to $27 million

Posted 1/28/14 (Tue)

By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer

Property owners in the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 will be asked to pay a smaller portion of a new school building than originally estimated. During a special school board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21, the board set the new bond levy at $27 million versus the $31.5 million levy that had been approved a week earlier.
The board will be moving forward with a $27 million bond, which is half of the allotted total cost for the high school project.
A vote on the new high school, which will be built in the Fox Hills subdivision on the east side of Watford City, will be held from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11, at the Watford City Elementary School Gym. Absentee ballots must be requested through the school web site or the main office and will be available later this week.  
“We are stretching in every direction to get this project funded,” Superintendent Steve Holen said. “Minor changes to the design have allowed the price to decrease. The classrooms have not changed much from the original plans. It’s still an 800 capacity building with 168,000 square feet.”
Instead of having a three station gymnasium, it will have two stations, but there will be an elevated walking track around the gym floor.
“A lot of us just came to the conclusion that we don’t really need a 2,000 capacity gym,” Holen said. “We want to save where we can and make it economically feasible.”
By dropping the bond amount by $4.5 million, taxpayers will pay roughly $7.81 per month on a $100,000 house, opposed to the $8.86 per month it would have been.
“It is so important to get this bond passed,” Myra Anderson, head of the Vote Yes Bond Committee, said. “Watford City has always been about progress. We have an outstanding school district. But in order to sustain our high standards, we need to avoid portable buildings. With the expert help from our county, city and school board, we can keep our education system at its highest level.”
The Yes Committee will be working to get information to the public about the new high school and bond election. Their number one goal is to get the bond passed. Currently, there are 30 individuals representing the committee.
“We hope to get more community involvement,” Anderson said. “We want to get the correct information in peoples’ hands, like what it means to taxpayers and avoid rumors.”
She said portable buildings are not an acceptable place for a quality education and portables should never become permanent.
“I completely believe in this town and school district,” Anderson said. “Education is important and I don’t have any fears regarding this bond. This community tends to be positive and proactive. We just have to find those people who will vote yes for the bond.”
On Jan. 22, the school board held its second public forum for the project. There were seven stations set up with a JLG architect at each site explaining the process and plans to the people in attendance.
“JLG has agreed to help get the information out to get the bond passed,” Holen said. “The self-paced stations allow people to ask questions, and we can get more public input. It’s a personable approach.”
Two community members who attended the event, Ann and Erica Johnsrud, were born and raised in Watford City. They both graduated from Watford City High School and take great pride in the community and the school. They plan on voting for the bond in March.
“It’s important to think about the future,” Ann said. “Don’t just build for now, build for the future.”
Another guest who attended the forum was Leann Erickson, who is also an art teacher at the high school.
“I work at the school and I see the growth,” Erickson said. “We need this new school. There are too many kids in some of the core classes. Some of them are up to 30 students. An ideal number would be about 25 to ensure a quality education.”
Erickson is a home and land owner in Watford City and understands that if the bond passes, taxes will go up, but she is all for it.
“Yeah, taxes will go up,” Erickson said. “But what else can we do? We need this.”
The last station at the forum was a survey with five questions asking patrons what they feel is most important in a new school, what will impact their vote on March 11, and what issues they see that may arise.
“Surveys help us get a sense of what the community wants,” Holen said. “We want to make sure we are on the same page and have the oportunity to make changes if we are not seeing the same picture.”
According to JLG planner and designer Ted Rozeboom, the location is a wonder to work with as far as design goes.
“The site is beautiful,” Rozeboom said. “It’s an opportunity for a gem of a building you will be able to see from a distance. The architects will have to have some bold and interesting moves for far and near appearance.”
He explained that the building will have three levels, but it will only appear that way from one side; the side that backs up to the main roadway entrance, which is also the ‘backdrop’ for the football field.
Kraus-Anderson and Construction Engineers Joint Venture have been hired as the construction manager at risk, by the school board, along with JLG Architects to tackle the design work.
Bill Blair with Construction Engineers was the on-site project manager for the elementary school addition and remodel project last year. Now he is taking on this project.
There will be one more public forum for the school district in February, but that date is still pending.
To join the Yes Committee or find out more, call (701) 675-2267.