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Jetvig gives land for new school

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Lake Park-Audubon School Board members were singing the praises of area farmer and developer Loren Jetvig Monday night, after they accepted his donation of prime city land for a new high school.

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"Mr. Jetvig has generously decided to donate 53 acres of land and access land to Highway 10," said Board Chairwoman Vicky Grondahl. "It's a very generous gift and will help with pubic acceptance (of a bond issuance for school improvements) this fall."

The only stipulations on Jetvig's gift are that the bond issuance be approved by voters, that a paved access road be built to Highway 10, and that school construction get underway by April 1, 2008.

Otherwise the title reverts to Jetvig and the district will pay him $4,505 by April 15, 2008 to reimburse for loss of use of the farmland during the 2007 growing season.

The tract of agricultural land is located on city-annexed property in the southwest corner of Lake Park.

School board members aren't sure how much the gift is worth. "That's between Mr. Jetvig and the IRS," said Grondahl.

But Superintendent Dale Hogie said Jetvig sold adjacent land in the area for $3,000 per acre in 1998, and the value of land has risen considerably since then.

That would make the gift worth at least $150,000 and probably much more.

The district's former architectural firm had budgeted about $1 million for site acquisition as part of a $34 million K-12 building bond referendum that failed last year. But Hogie said that amount was unrealistically high for this area.

The district needed at least 44 acres for its new high school to meet state requirements.

"Loren's been very gracious in his offer," Hogie said.

The paved access road to Highway 10 will cost the district between $25,000-$150,000, depending on a number of factors, such as whether it includes curb and gutter, Hogie said.

If the city agrees to take ownership of the access road, and it has been "very cooperative," Hogie said, then MnDOT will pay for turn lanes and other improvements on Highway 10. Otherwise it's considered a private development and the district would be charged for Highway 10 improvements, Hogie said.

City water and sewer lines are located adjacent to the 53 acres, and can easily be extended to serve the new high school, he added.

In addition to the construction of the new grades 7-12 building in Lake Park, district voters will be asked to approve a plan that combines renovation with some new construction for the elementary building in Audubon.

The school district now operates a K-6 school in Audubon and a 7-12 school in Lake Park for about 630 students.

Zerr Berg Architects of Fargo estimated a K-6 facility, which included combinations of new and remodeled construction, would cost a little more than $9.9 million.

It projected a new 7-12 facility would cost about $16.1 million.

District residents in December voted down construction of a $34.3 million school that would have housed preschool through 12th-grade students and been located on Highway 10 between the two towns.

The board set 7 p.m. public informational meetings on the bond referendum for Oct. 17 at Cormorant Community Center; Oct. 23 at the Audubon Elementary north gym; and Oct. 30 at the high school in Lake Park.

In other action, the board:

n Set the district property tax levy payable in 2007 at $740,898, the maximum increase allowed by the state.

Even so, that's nearly a $100,000 drop from this year's levy of $838,572.

So what's behind the big levy drop?

Hogie said school districts last year were granted levy authority of $30,000 per bus to replace Carpenter buses that had potential welding flaws.

LP-A had six buses that met the criteria, and the board levied the full $180,000 for collection in 2006.

With the one-time bus levy gone, the overall levy dropped significantly, he said.

n Considered a proposal from the Ulen-Hitterdal School District representative Greg Zillner to join eight or 10 districts in a new sports conference.

Other districts that will be asked to join include Ada-Borup, Norman County West and East, Rothsay, Waubun, Fertile, Park Christian in Moorhead, Winn-E-Mac and Mahnomen.

The conference would not include football, since some districts field nine-man teams, but would apply to volleyball and boys' and girls' basketball. LP-A would have to leave the Heart O' Lakes Conference to join the new conference, but it's been exploring that anyway.

"This would actually be a better fit than the one (conference) we tried to get into before, because they're not as far away and are closer in size," said school board member Rick Olson.

"Another advantage is most of those are section teams," Hogie added. "We'll play them twice in a season and get to know them, and it will make it easier to fill out schedules... right now we're dwarfed by some of our opponents -- Perham is three times our size, Pelican (Rapids) is three times our size."

But it's not known how spring sports will fit into the mix -- not all districts may offer the same sports as LP-A.

"That would be a significant issue -- we don't want to help some sports and hurt others,' Grondahl said.

The board opted to explore that question, and talk to the district's athletic directors, before deciding whether or not to join the new conference.

n The board also voted to advertise for coaching vacancies in boys' basketball from the varsity level down to 7th grade. Athletic Director Don Donarski had proposed to coach varsity basketball himself, but some board members voiced concern that that would be a conflict, saying he would essentially be asked to supervise himself.

n Board member Jeff Swetland announced that, thanks to the help of community education director Carmen Walter, a $1,500 grant was landed from a Twins' youth baseball fund. It paid for official foul poles on the baseball field, he said.

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