School board establishes committee to negotiate school, county agreement on community center facility

The School District 166 School Board had two topics on its agenda for the special meeting on Tuesday, July 10. The first was to look at preliminary drawings and to talk to Architect Dan Miller about what a community center and aquatics facility connected to the west end of the Grand Marais campus would look like. The second was to decide who would negotiate with the county and the YMCA on the agreements that need to be settled before the project moves ahead.
During the meeting, school board members and Superintendent Beth Schwarz considered sketches on paper and digital floor layouts on a large projection screen simultaneously reviewed by Miller at his JLG Architects office in Alexandria. There were a couple of breaks as the school board put Miller on hold and left the Jane Mianowski Conference Room to look at the actual spaces being discussed.
There was heated discussion regarding the possible expansion of the Industrial Arts area. Miller said that idea had not been fully developed, but gave a “very rough” cost estimate of $180 per square foot for a 2,000-square foot space or approximately $360,000. “But that conversation needs to take place between the steering committee and the county,” said Miller.
Steering Committee Chair Paul Sporn was in the audience and he spoke up, “The steering committee has decided that Industrial Arts is not part of the community center project. A couple of us came up with the idea of working on the industrial arts area, but this is really a school issue.”
School Board Member Leonard Sobanja cursed and expressed his frustration at what he said was another delay to improvements to the industrial arts program.
Board Member Jeanne Anderson said the Industrial Arts program needs to be reviewed, to determine what its needs are. Superintendent Schwarz said Industrial Arts instructor Sam West has been asked to put together his curriculum and programming needs.  Anderson said, “We need to know—how big does it need to be? What do we need?”
Superintendent Schwarz said, “A big piece of moving Industrial Arts forward is finding out what the county is going to give us for this portion of the building. We have to give the county some kind of number to get to the next step.”
Sobanja said if the county takes ownership of the west end of the school complex, “They are getting more than we’re getting.”
There were questions about the legality of adding the industrial arts expansion to the current project.  Sobanja argued—heatedly—that could be done.
Schwarz said this is why the school board was tasked with appointing someone from the board to negotiate with the county. She said the negotiators needed to find out if the county can use 1 percent funding and add the industrial arts expansion to the community center project or could the county pay the school a lump sum—enough for the industrial arts expansion? “We need to find out how the county commissioners want to do this and we need to negotiate for the best interest of the school district,” said Schwarz.
The school board ultimately appointed Jeanne Anderson and Leonard Sobanja, along with Superintendent Schwarz to a negotiating committee.
The board also directed Schwarz to have information on the industrial arts program for its July 19 meeting.