FERGUS FALLS - An attempt to get approval for $6.2 million in bonding to upgrade School District athletic fields here was rejected by voters on Tuesday by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin.
"We're definitely disappointed that it didn't go the way we wanted it to," said Blaine Danielson, chairman of the "Vote Yes" committee.
Danielson and Superintendent Jerry Ness said a couple of issues worked against the measure.
It was a tax, even though the measure was timed to take the place of another bond issue being paid off.
Ness said the city and Otter Tail County governments had raised taxes - about 11.5 percent for the city to help pay for a new police station, and about 4.5 percent for the county.
"This was an opportunity to say no," Ness said.
Voter turnout was high - more than 90 percent, Ness said, making it hard to educate all of the voters on the need for the facilities.
There were 5,402 votes against the measure and 4,588 for it.
"A lot of people are feeling they aren't going to get a benefit out of it and they weren't going to vote for it," Danielson said.
Ness said the School Board will meet Wednesday in a work session to canvass the vote, and then work through an analysis of the vote and the district's needs.
Chief among those immediate needs are to make the football bleachers structurally sound and handicap accessible, Danielson and Ness say.
Ness said the board will study the issue over the next few months and get more input from the community.
"We'll have to regroup and go at it again," Danielson said.
Much of the proposed work was to occur at Kennedy Secondary School. Plans included construction of an eight-lane track and field complex, with a football and soccer field within the track; a handicap-accessible bleacher system; two softball fields; eight tennis courts; concessions stands and restrooms; more parking and a maintenance garage; and an environmental learning center.
A regulation soccer field and practice field would have been built at Cleveland Elementary and a fenced baseball field would have been built at Roosevelt Elementary.
The measure was supported by the Fergus Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau as a way to bring more athletes and their families to the area, pumping up area businesses.
The Fergus Falls Daily Journal also backed the referendum.
The Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce didn't take a position.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583