Proposed auditorium and fitness center presented at meeting

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 10/13/99.

School meeting "It has taken us many years to come to this point," Pat Flanders, school board chairman, told those attending a public meeting on the proposed auditorium and fitness center Thursday night. About 50 people were in attendance to learn more about the proposed building project.

Besides school board members, on hand to answer questions were Troy Miller and Charles Orton, architects; Kevin Becker and Steve Porkkonen, construction managers; Kristin Hanson and Gary Olsen, district financial advisors.

"The addition of an auditorium and fitness center are long overdue," Flanders added. "We have a lot of talented people in the community and you have to feel sorry for them trying to put on plays or programs under makeshift conditions."

Flanders said the list of needs for the community goes on and on. Some of the items on the list include additional athletic fields, a new high school library, swimming pool, new wrestling room, more gym space, more bleachers. "An auditorium and fitness center are commonplace in many districts...we're the exception to the rule," Flanders stressed.

"The auditorium and fitness center would not be built just for the district but for the community," he added.

"I'm proud of the community and its accomplishments. History shows that if we provide the facility, people will attend," Flanders said.

Debora Glenz, school board member, explained that after the task force toured other facilities, they toured the Paynesville school. "Our facility is not just for jocks," she said. "You have walkers from the community utilizing the halls, aerobic classes, weight training, and more."

Under the new graduation standards, students need to include cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance, flexibility training, and aerobics. "We can't adequately meet these needs with our present facility," Glenz stressed.

"Our three tennis courts are past their prime and have done their job. It is time to retire them and construct new courts," Glenz added.

"Another segment of the project will include a new ventilation system for the basement. The area is damp and smells all the time," Glenz added.

Glenz informed those present that everything the district has proposed had to be first supported by the Minnesota Department of Children and Family Learning.

Dr. Bob Gardner, task force chairman, explained there is a lot of support in the community for the proposed project, but there is also some opposition.

"The idea of an auditorium and fitness center is not new. The idea was explored by another group several years ago, but the time wasn't right," Gardner said.

"When we looked at other facilities, we saw a need for our facilities and now we have to play catchup," Gardner added. "I love this town and I'm glad to be back. There is a lot of talent here in Paynesville and they're looking forward to having a place that they can utilize."

Gardner stressed that presently, plays and music groups need to be able to set up and take down sets in one day. "There is no place to rehearse until the day of the performance," he added. "We are putting on good shows with shackles on our legs. We need a place where props can be up and stay up for rehearsals, a place that is available year-round to the community."

Troy Miller said the dollar figures may sound like a lot of money, but the district is investing in durable materials that will last a long time.

Miller added that additional storage has been built into the project to help the district meet fire codes. At present, the football equipment is housed in the mechanical space which violates fire codes.

The size needed for the stage area was determined by the size of the school concert band. "The district needed a space large enough to hold the band for concerts," Miller explained.

"The auditorium will seat 499 because if we go larger, the district will need to meet a different set of codes," Miller added.

Miller also explained that the present high school facility was designed for an addition on the north side. Instead of a brick facing, the north side has concrete blocks. The building project will help eliminate some of the moisture problems in the basement by finishing off the north side of the school.

"The tennis courts would be built first, so the community wouldn't go without courts during the building project," Miller said. "The courts would be completed before ground was broken for the other part of the project."

Flanders explained the Paynesville Area School District is not a property rich district, thus it is eligible for equalization aid. This aid was not available when the district built the middle or elementary schools. Under present law, the equalization aid should cover 46 percent of the project costs or $1.5 million. The local share of the project would cost $1.9 million.

Flanders made a comparison of individual tax impact at the meeting. A commercial business valued at $50,000 saw a tax increase of $440 when the middle school was built. With the tax breaks today, the increase will be only $53.

On a residence valued at $70,000, the 1993 project saw an increase of $99 to $198. On this project, the increase will range from $7 to $32.

"On top of that, there is an education tax credit available to homeowners. All the breaks make the numbers less scary," Flanders added.

The district's financial advisors, Ehlers and Associates, will figure out the tax impact on homes and businesses. Those interested in knowing the tax impact can call collect, Ehlers and Associates, 1-651-697-8500 and ask for the education team.

During the question and answer period, Gary Swenson, Paynesville, compli-mented the task force on the job they did in doing their homework on the project. "I feel it would be a mistake if the district didn't take advantage of the state aid," he said.

Some at the meeting asked if the project funds would cover everything. Miller explained that everything would be in place and completely operational. The fitness center has a budget of $75,000 for equipment and the auditorium has a budget of $300,000.

Caldwell said more meetings are being planned before the public votes on Dec. 14.

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