Martin Co. West plans referendum

SHERBURN — More than 60 citizens turned out for the Martin County West School Board meeting this week, as the board plans to ask voters for $12 million this fall and to tear down the Welcome school site next year.

Superintendent Allison Schmidt outlined the process to date.

“The board has attended several retreats which were focused on facilities and they sought community feedback through the survey (by the School Perceptions organization) and community members,” she said. “They have decided to move forward with a bond referendum in November with two separate questions for the district residents to consider. The first question, for $3.25 million, is focused on facility improvements to the schools in Sherburn and Trimont. These updates include improving secure accesses, updating restrooms, and expanding the cafeteria and kitchen at the Junior/Senior High School. The second question, for $8.75 million, will ask voters to consider building a multi-purpose area in Sherburn that would be used by classes throughout the day and extracurricular activities outside school hours. It would also be available for community use and may include fitness facilities. This question would also improve existing locker rooms and include money for the demolition of the Welcome building.”

The district will submit a review and comment proposal to the Minnesota Department of Education. It must be sent in by Aug. 23.

Residents asked about community meetings to discuss the plans. The board assured them that those meetings are already planned.

Schmidt said the recommendation is for the Welcome building’s demolition/non-usage in summer 2020. Board members noted that they considered different options (tear down the Welcome building, repair the building, tear down the old part of the building and add a new part, etc). They said they are trying to be fiscally responsible and do what is best for the students.

The maintenance of the Welcome building costs about $80,000 per year. It will be more this year because the moving of the gas lines precipitated by road construction already cost about $30,000. The boilers also need repair.

One board member suggested district leaders in the past were afraid to see a referendum fail, and now the district must do something because it needs more space for classes and physical education.

On the matter of the multi-purpose complex, the board thought more students are in Sherburn and the complex needs to be near students so they can use it for classes as well as sports, practices and other events.

Residents reminded the board that the Welcome building is used for gymnastics, practices, youth sports and more. The space for these students has to be made if the building in Welcome is demolished, they said.

Board members said the survey was like a road map to find a vision for Martin County West, and much public input is needed. They agreed that the survey showed that district residents are supportive of the schools. Board members thanked those who attended the meeting. They said they hope the public meetings also will be well attended.