Monday evening, the Capital Projects Improvement Advisory Task Force came back in front of the school board to offer one last recommendation for next winter’s potential bond referendum.
The task force recommended the addition of an all-purpose sports facility, which would be located on the high school campus. This domed facility would feature an artificial turf field used by football, soccer and lacrosse, with other sports such as softball and baseball using it for off-season practice in the winter. Task force members said high school and middle school teams, along with youth clubs and even adult recreation programs could make use of the all-purpose facility. The facility would be rented to youth clubs, community education and teams from neighboring towns, as STMA would be the only community in the area with a domed facility.
The all-purpose sports facility would cost an estimated $11.3 million, a number that could change if the school board opts to pare down some of the facility’s offerings, such as the track currently included in the task force’s plan. In addition to the all-purpose facility, the committee also recommended moving the varsity baseball field to the high school and upgrading the softball field for comparable facilities, which would add another $170,000.
These two recommendations help achieve an athletics department goal to have all varsity sports practice and compete at the high school. Athletic leaders such as Activities Director Brian Benson say this would enhance student safety by reducing travel to off-site sports fields and would allow teams to have access to the trainer on one site. They also feel the all-purpose facility would complement and enhance the school/community partnership demonstrated with the High School’s Activity Center and Fitness Center.
School board members accepted the bond committee’s recommendation Monday evening, but that doesn’t mean the all-purpose sports facility will make it into the final bond proposal. The school board initially agreed to explore the possibility of up to a $21 million bond, but the current recommendations are adding up to much more than that. Here is a breakdown of the proposed projects for the bond referendum, understanding that the school board has not approved the addition of any project besides the ice arena expansion, nor has it approved the bond itself at this point:
Ice arena expansion: originally considered as $5-8 million project, this project’s latest estimates have come in at least $9.2 million.
Classroom additions at Albertville Primary and the High School: the inclusion of these two additions hinges on an enrollment study the school board commissioned this spring, which will be complete mid-August. If deemed necessary, an eight-classroom addition at Albertville Primary and six-classroom addition at the high school would cost an estimated $7.6 million.
Security improvements: secure entrances at all school buildings that currently lack one would add up to nearly $1.25 million.
Pool maintenance: school leaders say $450,000 worth of pool repairs is needed to maintain health and safety.
Energy Efficiency: improvements such as LED lighting and generators for buildings would cost nearly $1.2 million. The school district said these improvements would save the district money on energy costs in the longer term.
Technology: $2.47 million would give the school’s technology department the funding it needs to maintain technology infrastructure and replace aging technology for three years, allowing it time to come up with a 10-year funding plan.
Tennis courts and equipment storage at high school: $550,000
Baseball fields at high school and upgrades to softball fields: $170,000
All-purpose domed sports facility at high school: $11.3 million
Total: Altogether, these projects add up to an estimated $34,157,000.
The capital improvement advisory task force has now completed its mission by providing priority recommendations to the school board. Next, the community will have a chance to weigh in before the board makes decisions on which projects to include on the final bond proposal. The public is encouraged to voice their opinions to board members through phone, email and an upcoming public input meeting, scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m. Monday, August 22.
The school board does not yet have numbers for what the bond might cost homeowners if all the above projects make it onto the final list, but a $21 million bond would cost the owner of a $200,000 home $34 per year.
Task force members and school board members spoke positively of the large number of students and families the proposed all-purpose sports facility could impact, but questions of tax-tolerance tempered board enthusiasm, knowing that a renewal or increase in the school district levy is coming up at some point in the future, which board chair Doug Birk said could be the most important levy the district has ever faced, with budget deficits looming.
“I think the scope of this is going to be important,” Birk said. “The board is doing to have weigh the size of this measure, not just for the immediate future but also for its impact on future political decisions for the community.”