Overruns lead Verndale board to table bus garage project

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Finding themselves beset by stringent building code demands, the Verndale school board voted Monday evening to table work on the district's new bus garage.

Paul Davis Remodeling and Renovation Project Manager Mike Lovelace told the board the $375,000 project has begun to see significant cost overruns, a concern Lovelace presented to the board at a meeting earlier this year.

"At the very beginning, Mike mentioned they might have stiffer requirements on the building codes," Verndale Superintendent Paul Brownlow said.

The board elected to forego a leasing option which Lovelace suggested, which may have dodged some building code requirements, in favor of following state guidelines.

Brownlow said Tuesday morning the cost overrun is in the neighborhood of $100,000 due to code requirements for deeper concrete and additional material, plus additional labor costs.

"All those pieces add up. it's definitely overkill," Brownlow said. "We need to get a final dollar amount."

The Verndale board is keenly interested in finding the source of the overrun costs. Brownlow said it may be the state of Minnesota or the school's own architects, who regularly work with state building code requirements. The object is to put up a 90x100 steel building to house the district's bus fleet.

In addressing the board at the December meeting Lovelace briefly outlined the present situation.

"The building has changed quite a bit from what you guys originally wanted," Lovelace told the board Monday evening. "We're way over budget on it as of now. We still have not got a permit from the state, I don't know when we are going to get it. They said 3-5 weeks and it's been just about five weeks now."

Lovelace then presented a recommendation, based in part on the coming winter season.

"I would suggest let's step back, take a deep breath and reevaluate this thing and see which direction you want to go," Lovelace said.

Board member Bill Blaha quickly agreed and made the motion, which was subsequently approved, to put the project off until the spring of 2017.

"Based on those numbers I think we should refer it back to the Buildings and Grounds Committee and table to project until spring," Blaha said.

Transportation Coordinator Wade Kern has assured the Verndale administration that power for bus engine heaters can be arranged during the winter months.

The board also certified a 2016 payable 2017 tax levy of $490,310.18, a 1.7 percent decrease in the present levy amount. The proposed levy was certified at the board's October meeting.

Jon Archer of Schlenner, Wenner and Company was on hand to present the certified public accounting firm's audit report on the district. Archer noted that Verndale' has a unassigned fund balance of $2.77 million.

"Your policy is that you want to have a minimum of three months of expenditures in your fund balance, right now you have about six," Archer noted.

In personnel matters, the board approved the hiring of special education instructor Abelein Dunn, hired Katie Bolland as assistant girls' basketball coach and granted her leave after the season, hired Andy Goulson as assistant baseball coach and granted leaves to instructor Maria Uselman and education assistant Tina Crandall.

The board was informed the new STEM Stars program received a $1,000 donation from the Verndale Lions Club and a matching $5,000 donation from Verndale alumni Dale Schmith.

The program, headed by secondary instructors Kelly Youngbauer and Sheri Brewer, applies disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to a variety of projects. The program is aimed at students in grades 4-8. The ultimate goal is to present students with future opportunities at high-tech jobs.