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School hires Hatch for negotiating help, K-A as construction manager

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The District 2155 school board voted to hire the Kraus-Anderson Construction Company as their construction manager Monday evening with the hope of spurring action by their insurance carrier, Riverport Insurance Group.

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Holding its sixth straight Monday meeting since the June 17 tornado destroyed the Wadena-Deer Creek senior and junior high and the district offices, the board gave ample sign that their patience with their insurance carrier has run out.

According to WDC superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom, Riverport has shown signs it would like to negotiate but has given her no official figures.

The district was promised a report on the condition of the high school from Riverport Insurance Group on or before July 7 but no official report arrived. Unofficially, the school is reported to be 80-85 percent destroyed. A fence has been erected around the building and a security firm has been in place to keep unauthorized people from entering the building, which is dangerous to enter, not only because of structural weaknesses, but because of mold which is growing inside portions of the leaking building. Only Pinnacle and Clark Engineering teams and a sub-contractor have been in the building since the storm. These firms have all been hired by Riverport.

By employing Kraus-Anderson, and with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the school can obtain their own assessment of damage to the building within two weeks. Kraus-Anderson made the agreement with the district in hopes of becoming the prime contractor on a new building.

The board has hired former state attorney general and 2006 DFL gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch to help Jim Stromman in serving as their counsel. A delegation from Wadena, including Dahlstrom, mayor Wayne Wolden and three school board members, visited St. Paul on Friday, July 23 and met with state attorney general Lori Swanson, who volunteered to act as a mediator between the two sides. Stromman made the recommendation of hiring an architectural firm at a special June 28 meeting of the school board.

The district has a blanket insurance policy with Riverport which covers the replacement cost of the building and its contents. The maximum amount of the policy is $54 million.

In other action, the board took transportation director Tim Wohlert's recommendation and accepted a lease bid from Hoglund Bus and Truck of Monticello on eight new full-sized buses and two 14-passenger buses. Wohlert also informed the board that the seven school buses that were salvaged after the tornado have been repaired. Five of the district's 22 buses were undamaged by the tornado so 20 full-size buses and two small buses will be available on the first day of school Sept. 7. Negotiations are under way to put a temporary bus garage facility at the old Willis Rubber building in Wadena.

The district is still planning to use facilities at WDC Elementary, M State-Wadena, Deer Creek and St. Ann's Catholic School during the 2010-11 school year. The district will be leasing facilities at M State and St. Ann's.

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