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Need for sprinklers adds to Frazee troubles

After years of warnings from the state fire marshal, Frazee-Vergas Schools plans to install fire sprinklers throughout the elementary and high school buildings.

Superintendent Deron Stender said the fire marshal inspected the buildings at the end of August and said the district must provide one of two options -- add sprinklers or build a road behind the elementary school and provide hydrants at the schools to provide water for the fire department in case of emergency.

The elementary school and a portion of the high school do not have sprinklers in the facilities.

After an assessment on the elementary school alone coming in at $200,000, Stender estimated the cost for sprinklers could be anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000.

Stender said he hasn't gotten any estimates on building a road and installing fire hydrants because he said the fire marshal will continue to push for sprinklers in the future.

"If he comes back next year and doesn't see sprinklers or dirt...," he said.

"We could get fined," School board member Dwight Cook finished.

Stender said he needs to have a plan in place for the fire marshal by Friday and then the district has 90 days to get started, in some form, on that plan.

"Do they take into consideration our fire department capabilities," questioned school board member Christine Daggett.

"His whole issue is loss of life and building damage," Stender replied.

Daggett said it's an easy choice between options, because if a road were built, it would still take the fire department time to get to the site and risk loss of life.

After deciding sprinklers are the better route to take, paying for them became the next hurdle for the board.

"Our problem is, we have to levy for it," Stender said of the cost to put in sprinklers. He said it could be done with the referendum vote in November, but since the money could be taken from the health and safety fund, the board could levy for the money without it going to a public vote.

With sprinklers, the district's fire insurance would be reduced, he said.

Also at the school board meeting, members discussed the resignation of Daggett.

Daggett submitted her letter of resignation from the school board on Aug. 14, saying, "due to complicated and delicate decisions facing our district, I no longer feel qualified or confident to serve on the Board of Education."

She asked that the resignation be effective immediately. The board didn't fully comply.

"I think we should deny (the letter) and appoint her to life and penance," joked board member Rich Ziegler.

The board is looking at replacing Daggett with a former board member so the replacement wouldn't have to go through the training process. Former member Mike Hiemenz was approached and is interested in filling Daggett's position.

The board asked Daggett to stay on one more month, saying they will have a decision on her replacement for next month's meeting.

The school board has two options on Daggett's replacement process -- board appointment or application process. Stender said they are appointing because of training costs and "working knowledge of what takes place" on the board. It is not an option for the board to run with only six members until the next election.

Also at the meeting:

• The board agreed to have a member of the state's Department of Education come explain what options there are for the district if the November referendum doesn't pass. They are inviting him to the Monday, Sept. 24, 7 a.m. special board meeting. Also at the board meeting, members will certify the levy for health and safety funds for the sprinklers.

• The board approved a resolution asking for a referendum vote in November. Polling places are Frazee Elementary School, Vergas Community Center and Height Of Land Town Hall.

Polls will be opening at noon Nov. 6 until 8 p.m. School will be in session in the elementary that day, but Stender said the school will figure out some way of not disrupting children and still have an area for the public to vote.

The Frazee-Vergas School Board will be hosting 14 public meetings on the proposed referendum.

• Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. in the Frazee High School Media Center

• Thursday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. in the Vergas Community Center

• Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. in the Frazee High School Media Center

• Thursday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. in the Toad Lake Town Hall

• Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m. in the Wolf Lake Lion Hall

• Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. in the Vergas Community Center

• Saturday, Oct. 13, at 9 a.m. in the Frazee High School Media Center

• Monday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Height O Land Town Hall

• Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. in the Frazee High School Media Center

• Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Shell Lake Town Hall

• Thursday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. in the Vergas Community Center

• Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. in the Frazee High School Media Center