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More DL school bond questions arise

I have to admit that I was somewhat impressed by having my previous letter to the editor answered personally by the Superintendent of Detroit Lakes Schools.

I know this is probably the busiest time of the year for school staff so I appreciate him taking time to explain his positions on the upcoming school bond issue. I feel the need to reply to his letter, however, because even though he made some excellent points on several issues, he really didn’t respond to the questions I was asking. Since this could be my fault for not being clear, I thought I could rephrase them in a more concise manner.

We obviously both agree that Rossman School should remain open. My question concerns the utilization of that building and why it is necessary to put a great deal of money into it by remodeling. As Mr. Froke pointed out, 10,000 square feet of classroom space was added to Rossman in 1997. In addition, all the windows were redone for efficiency, the air conditioning and heating were upgraded, and modern technological infrastructure was added.

We have room for 500 students K-5 without making any major changes to the building. We could also use this building for clustering students in specific classroom levels in conjunction with the other school buildings if that is what the district decides they want to do. My question then becomes — why is it necessary to spend millions of dollars remodeling this building when we are already building a new building that could be built to specification for pre-kindergarten and administration?

Instead of housing 1,000 students in the new building we could house 500 and end up with the same amount of expansion for students. We would also end up with three neighborhood schools and considerably less than $57 million in costs.

My question about the Boys and Girls Club was mistakenly taken as concern about cost to the school district. Let me say that I personally am a strong supporter of the club and have made donations to it in the past. The mission of this organization is noble to say the least. My question is — is it proper to use a tax base that has been specifically set up to provide funding for public schools to build housing for a non-profit organization? Even if this space is leased out and the school district makes some money, are we setting a precedent for future bond issues? How will we explain to other non-profit organizations that this is done only for one entity?

As I stated in my last letter, I am neither opposed nor unopposed to this, I would just like to know that it has been discussed thoroughly.

My question about the cost of the land that is being purchased was not about whether we can find suitable land elsewhere. I actually agree with much of the rationale that has been put forward concerning this choice. My question is — why are we paying so much for unimproved land? From my point of view the negotiation for the land seems to be entirely one sided. It looks like the owner was approached and asked to name his price and then given $15,000 to make sure he didn’t raise it higher later. I may be way off on this, but I know that 40 acres of high quality tillable farm land would be worth $240,000 at the high end and residential lots couldn’t be built unless the owner were to build roads and bring sewer, water and electric hook ups to each individual lot and then wait years to sell them all.

It would be interesting to have the current tax statement on this property published to show what land values taxes are currently being paid on. If this process were more public I would hope that I would be proven entirely wrong.

Since Mr. Froke did say, “not to hesitate if there were any more questions,” I had one more to ask — what are the actual savings projected by shutting down the current administration building and adding new offices to the costs of the school bond?

Thank you again for the time and effort put forth in answering these questions. I hope you can give me good reason to be more supportive in the future. — Donald A Johnson, Detroit Lakes