By Barry Hoff | Bloomer Advance

Wednesday night, June 5, the School Board of the Bloomer School District decided to delay a community survey regarding a possible referendum to build a new high school until the spring of 2020.

The special meeting of the school board on Wednesday was held to review and discuss a draft of the CESA 10 facilities study and to consider approving a contract with School Perceptions for a fall community survey.

In reviewing the draft facilities study, district superintendent Brian Misfeldt told the board and audience that CESA 10 estimated the construction cost of a new high school at $35–45 million. He said that was consistent with estimates from SDS Architects.

Misfeldt then went on to discuss other parts of the study.

“They then went into renovations, which is really why we asked them to conduct this study,” said Misfeldt.

Misfeldt then read from the study, “Renovating the high school would need to address years of deferred maintenance as well as upgrades and improvements to meet the educational needs of the school. Estimated renovation costs are approximately $15 million over the next five years.”

The report goes on to say that the renovations would bring the school up to compliance but that “the educational spaces will still reflect that of a 1960s facility, and will not meet the 21st century standards achieved in the elementary and middle schools.”

The report also said that there would be increased operating efficiencies gained by new construction over renovations of the current facility.

Misfeldt then went on to explain how the study rates different maintenance and improvement projects based on four factors: 1) Safety, health and compliance, 2) Function, 3) Return on investment, and 4) Cost and payback considerations. Each of the four areas are given a numerical value with regard to specific projects, then based on the total score the district can prioritize projects.

Misfeldt told the members of the public in the audience that once the report is finalized and presented to the board at the Monday, June 24 regular school board meeting, it will be made available to the public via the school district website. (The Bloomer Advance also plans to make the report available via its website.)

After reviewing the draft report, Misfeldt opened it up for comments from the public or board.

Board vice-president, Chris Conard commented first saying he had read through the draft in detail because he was very curious how they broke things down.

He then said, “I can see where they got the $15 million because there’s a lot of things here you’d do if you said you need to be in this facility for another 30 or 40 years.

“I think the question that’s in front of us and the public, and I don’t know yet how to message this to the public properly, but in the next decade we will probably spend $40 million dollars or more on a high school. And whether you do that in two years, or five years or nine years is the big question. And I think it’s important for us to first give as much of this information to the general public where this board is seeing things and give them also a strategic plan of where we see we can take this and it’s effects on the tax payers, the community on all these things,” said Conard. “To rush that, I don’t think we have enough information and that concerns me because it’s a very, very big decision.”

As the discussion shifted from the draft facilities report to the possible community survey, Conard again reiterated that the public needed to be informed about the need and costs associated with a new high school, but he wasn’t sure the timing was right to do a community survey yet.

Board treasurer Milaney Leverson said, “I have that same concern, and I know Mr. Hilger has brought that concern up before too, that the community is going to see a survey as preface to a referendum…”

“that you’ve already made up your mind,” someone finished for her.

Another board member asked when the survey had to be done by and Misfeldt said that the survey is generally done six months before the final decision about a referendum must be made. In the case of an April 2020 referendum the information has to be sent to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction by January 2020.

“If we’re okay with not hitting that April 2020 date we have more time,” said Misfeldt.

He went on to say that if the board was okay with pushing a possible referendum out to November of 2020 or April of 2021 then the board would have a lot more time to get the survey together exactly the way they want it.

Other board members expressed concern that they didn’t want the public to perceive this as something the board was trying to cram down their throats.

Conard said that he’d like the public to see that the board has looked at this with “a fine tooth comb,” and that the board is concerned with the health and safety and welfare of the students, but also very concerned about debt load and taxpayer costs but it’s also realistic that Bloomer needs a high school in the next six to eight years unless the public says they want it before then.

After further discussion the board voted to delay the survey until a later date no later than June of 2020 (exact wording was not available at press time).

The public is encouraged to attend the June 24 board meeting when CESA 10 will present the final draft of its facilities study. The facilities study looks at all of the buildings in the district and prioritizes projects based on the criteria presented earlier in this article. One such project is the middle school roof which, at 18 years, is nearing the end of its 20 year life expectancy.

According to the school district website, “Board Meetings are held on the third Monday of each month at the Bloomer Middle School Lecture area unless otherwise posted. Board Meetings are posted on Board Docs under the School Board link. Each month electronic access to agendas and details of the meetings are available in real time for the public to view.” The board meetings typically start at 6 p.m.

Agendas are also published in the Bloomer Advance.