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Moving forward

By Staff | Feb 12, 2010

Major building improvements at Rugby’s Jr.-Sr. High and Ely Elementary are still in the discussion stage, but the Rugby School Board last week made several decisions to move the proposed project a step closer to reality.

At its Feb. 9 meeting, the board first approved a resolution intending to make upgrades at both facilities which are over four decades old. Although this resolution is not a legal requirement, it makes it clear the board is committed to prioritizing and planning major renovations and improvements.

Second, the board approved securing a bond counsel to work with the district relating to the sale of bonds to fund the improvements. The board is leaning toward asking district voters at the June 8 school election whether they support the issuance of bonds to fund the complete project which could approach $6 million.

And third, the board selected an architect to supply building improvement, draft designs and oversee future construction.

The board met with four potential architectural firms last week to receive requests for proposals of work. Members then ranked them and eventually selected Zerr Berg Architects of Fargo as their top choice.

Cory Johnson, board member, said he was most impressed with the firm’s extensive experience in school renovation and construction. The upfront costs with Zerr Berg would include a pre-referendum fee of $7,500. During the firm’s presentation to the board they said its architect fee would be six percent of the total project cost.

Jeff Lind, school superintendent, was also impressed with Zerr Berg’s knowledge in school-related projects and reputation of performing quality work.

The district received a comprehensive facilities needs assessment report last year and also formed a citizens advisory committee to tour the two buildings and review the report. That committee also came to the conclusion that improvements in both schools are needed.

The board has not determined whether the proposed project will concentrate on making a few of those recommended upgrades in the assessment report, most of them, or all of them.

Two pressing areas, however, were classroom upgrades in the 1955 addition at the Jr.-Sr. High, including new heating and cooling systems, removal or encapsulating asbestos in the cafeteria area as well as new windows and other improvements at Ely.

Other work included adding a large commons area adjacent to the existing high school commons area as well as improvements in the music department, vocational agriculture department and auditorium. The entire project could run as high as $6 million.

Financing the project could come through bonds, but would require a 60 percent majority approval from district voters. The board has looked into zero interest qualified construction bonds through the state Department of Public Instruction. However, there are time provisions tied to that proposed funding option. The board could also look to sell general obligation bonds for the project.

The district also has nearly $400,000 in one-time stimulus funds to potentially put toward some improvements as well.

Lind said the board’s legal debt limit is just over $6 million, allowing for the complete project, as it is now proposed, to move along.

The district has received the OK from the state Department of Public Instruction to plan and complete renovation work, which is a requirement under law.

The board will likely have the contract with Zerr Berg in place next month and begin working on designs.

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