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School board members join co-location study

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News Wadena, 56482
Wadena PJ
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Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson 56482

District 2155 school board members Ann Pate, Steve Techam and Dan Toedter have answered the call to serve with a group that could make some dramatic changes in the Wadena community over the next few years.

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On the same day that a Rachel Contractors full swing began taking down the high school in front of a large crowd of spectators, the school board heard members of the Wadena City Council express their interest in putting together a team that could land additional funds from the Minnesota Legislature in January.

The new WDC school will be built by the time the 2012-13 school year begins. School officials have made that project their priority.

City officials, who lost their outdoor pool at Fink Park and saw the Community Wellness Center and Hockey Arena destroyed, have hopes of building a facility that will include all three -- in addition to meeting rooms and other facilities.

The Wadena 2.0 group, a collection of parties interested in the project which attended a special session of the Legislature in October, brought plans to St. Paul for the facility they hope to build. The Legislature did not give the 2.0 group the funds it asked for but Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the lawmakers appropriated $750,000 for planning purposes and to study co-location.

At that time, the city took point in order to move the project along, Council member Don Niles said, not to seek ownership, but to move the process forward. Niles pointed out to the WDC school board Monday that such a step is not usually taken by the Legislature unless it plans to take further action.

"It is not the intention of the city to slow down the progress for remodeling the school," Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden said. Wolden said the council has met with Perkins + Will architects on the subject and has seen their interest in helping the project move along.

"The dream that I hear so many people say is 'let's make Wadena really, really something, that is not just about the school, and not just about the community center but about the community altogether' about the fact that we can draw families to this town," Wolden said.

City Administrator Brad Swenson acknowledged that "there are a lot more questions than there are answers," at this point but added that the Legislature's appropriation was based on a desire to see a cooperative effort, sharing services and co-locating facilities with Wadena-Deer Creek High School.

Swenson said it has not been decided yet how much money to ask for but he pointed out that using the same weight facilities, gym space and commons would save expenses for the school and give the district an opportunity to fund additional projects.

District 2155 received a settlement for nearly $41 million from Riverport Insurance in early October to cover the replacement of the school building and its contents. WDC superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom said at that time that $33.5 million of that amount will be available to actually construct a new school facility. The rest has to go for replacing contents of the building.

The city and the school district have both hired the architectural firm of Perkins + Will for the facilities they wish to build. Geo-thermal heating would be just one of the benefits to both the city and the school district of locating the community center close to the new high school.

Recognizing the fact that a combined facility or "campus" of buildings would be a terrific asset to the community, it was also pointed out that Tri-County Hospital, the Wadena Hockey Association, Wadena County, Otter Tail County, the Community Center board and M State-Wadena could have an interest in planning the January bid to have a large project put in the state bonding bill.

The group which the city would like to see make plans for a presentation to the Legislature in January, has very little time to prepare. A meeting could take place as early as this week.

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Brian Hansel
(218) 631-2561
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