Bids came in nearly $100,000 lower than expected for the next phase of construction on the exterior of the Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School, according to a building official.

Those bids are still being vetted, according to WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum, with a decision to accept the bids to be made at the February board meeting.

Lower than estimated bids have been the trend for much of the remodeling work at the school that started last summer. The next phase involves work to add a large parking lot, move and upgrade the playground area, close a portion of Dayton Ave., with additions of turf, lighting and crossings. In 2018, large portions of the school were remodeled including many classrooms, cafeteria, bathrooms, hallways, and HVAC for much of the building.

Site foreman Chris Wacker presented on the remodeling projects and said that being the first in line in the bidding season helped the school district see significant savings.

That will hopefully allow for some of the additional projects to happen, Wacker said. Some of those additions include work to replace flooring, lockers and gymnasium upgrades as well as air handling units in the library area.

Wacker noted that work on the boiler system continues. He referenced a heat sensor that went off in the school's kitchen on Christmas Eve. The issue was handled and the sensor was moved. Another issue involved a boiler frosting up. That was being resolved by extending chimneys a few feet up.

Wacker said the next phase will likely start at the end of April, the sooner the better.

"Next fall, we want to be done," Wacker said.

He felt that once this exterior work is done, the school will really take on a new look that those on the outside will be able to appreciate.

In other actions:

• EXCEL award students Michael Schmidt and Courtny Warren and AAA award students Wyatt Hamann and Sophie Kreklau were honored during the acknowledgement portion of the meeting.

• School board members Kent Schmidt was named the chairman of the board; Dan Lawson vice chair; Vince Hinojos as clerk; Melissa Seelhammer as treasurer.

• Pioneer Journal was approved as official newspaper.

• School board members voted 3-2 to increase their compensation from $2,131 per year to $2,200, a roughly 3-percent increase over 2018. Schmidt and Lawson were opposed to the increase, Peter Hayes was not present. Westrum suggested the increase would be a good idea as the compensation has been unchanged for at least 10 years.

"I know none of you are doing this for the pay," Westrum said.

Schmidt agreed that he was not in this position to make money. The board chair makes an additional $543, vice chair, clerk and treasurer an additional $135 and an additional $1,175 for the board negotiator.

• Official depositories were named as Wadena State Bank for checking accounts, Minnesota School District Liquid Asset Fund and MN Trust and TD Ameritrade for investments.

• School hires included Kyle Petermeier for head football and junior high softball and for Shawna Loerzel as Kid's Club para.

• A resolution was approved allowing school board member Kent Schmidt to work part-time in the school district. He has done this in the past, substitute teaching. By law it's allowed as long as a school board member does not expect to earn more than $8,000 during the fiscal year. All board members were in favor of the resolution with Schmidt abstaining.

• Lane changes were approved for Zach Martin, Kevin Tumberg, Sara Lenz and Monica Watson.

• School enrollment dropped from 986 in December to 983 in January.

• The board discussed trading in their current John Deere lawn tractor for a John Deere 1025R sub-compact tractor. It has a cab with a broom on the front and a salt spreader on the back. It can also be used to mow in the summer. Going this route, the school would not buy a new plow truck. The current truck would go to the bus garage. The total cost would be $22,770 after trade in. The snow removal crew noted that this machine would do the job better and faster than their current setup.

• The next regular board meeting is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the Robertson Theatre.