The Detroit Lakes School Board approved just over $104,500 in construction change orders at its Monday night, May 18, meeting, bringing the total bill for the district-wide renovation and expansion project to more than $60.6 million.

Superintendent Doug Froke reported to the board that the project was now 32.5%, or just under one-third complete. Business Manager Ryan Tangen also noted that, thus far, the district has only used up about 29% of the project contingency fund, or $228,573 of the $1,093,632 available for change orders.

Of that contingency money, Tangen said, most was spent on alternates such as kitchen and office renovations at the middle school, which were added on only after all bids were in and it was determined that enough money was left in the budget to add them to the project.

Tangen also noted that, typically, the largest portion of contingency expenditures happen at the front end of a construction project rather than at the end, which would put this project in pretty good shape budget-wise.

The project is primarily funded through general obligation construction bonds that were issued after school district voters approved a $49.8 million bond levy referendum in November 2018. The remainder is being funded through a combination of long-term facilities maintenance bonds, grants and other (i.e., non-levy) sources.

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Also at Monday's meeting, the board:

  • Approved a two-year master contract settlement with district bus drivers and custodians who belong to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The contract, which encompasses the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, includes step movement and wage schedule increases of 2.17% for the first year and 2.35% for the second. This amounts to a two-year package wage increase of 7.06%, or $67,332.
  • Approved the commitment of $50,000 in school district funds toward the planned construction of a greenhouse at Detroit Lakes High School. The plan is for the 35-by-60-foot structure to be erected in an area currently occupied by a small garage; the vehicles and equipment stored in that structure would be moved elsewhere. The cost of the project, which is still in the planning stages, is expected to be in the $200,000-$250,000 range; project coordinator Vern Schnathorst is attempting to obtain grant funding to pay for the bulk of the cost.
  • Approved the continuation of the school district's food service program through the summer months. Because of extensive construction going on at the middle and high school buildings, however, the M State cafeteria will now serve as the main pickup site (meals will still be delivered curbside, in designated areas). The Richwood Store will still serve as the alternate pickup site; hours will be 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at M State, and 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Richwood, Monday through Friday. Home delivery service will no longer be available — and as of July 1, meals will be served on site at M State, per traditional summer foods program rules.