St. Peter Public Schools added a few more projects to the list for its facilities this summer.

The school board, meeting Monday night, agreed to add amenities at Community Spirit Park, replace the Middle School track and tuck-point North Elementary.

In February, the board had approved five projects using about $750,000 in leftover proceeds from the $58.6 million bond referendum. It’s primarily from interest income generated from the principal before it was spent plus some leftover contingency. The district will also use that pot to pay for park amenities.

Last week, the school board and City Council were presented a plan for maintaining and improving the park. There, staff told the governmental bodies they anticipated $160,000 in amenities, with the district paying about $85,000. The board approved seeking amenities of $50,000 to $75,000 using leftover bond money.

From the annual long-term facility maintenance state aid and levy, the district will pay for a $102,530 reconstruction of the track. That contract was awarded to Midwest Track and Tennis, Denison, Iowa, the lowest of three bidders.

It also awarded a $122,800 contract to tuck-point North to TMI Coatings, St. Paul. The company was the lowest of two bidders.

Those projects are added to a roofing replacement at the Middle School, which totals $1.6 million. The source of funds yields about $660,000 in 2017-18, with an estimate of $785,000 for 2018-19. State rules allow the district to borrow ahead for major projects.

Board member Jon Carlson asked how the district decides which source to use for the projects.

Superintendent Paul Peterson said the projects considered Monday were eligible for either, but bond money is used for those priorities leftover from the district’s major construction and renovation project last year. Long-term facilities maintenance dollars were used according to a 10-year plan.

“I’m glad we’re in good financial shape,” Carlson said, then asked whether the next few years would lack projects to help the district pay the large investment back.

“It may take us another few years to get back to zero,” Peterson said. “The good news is that the district has reserves to cash flow those projects before the LTFM dollars catch up.”

Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Marc Bachman said the 10-year-plan included three years of “intentionally lighter” project schedules and expected a four-year recovery timeline. But the roof replacement will be more expensive than the 10-year plan expected, which could add another year or two to the recovery period.

Bond projects

The projects approved in February include repainting and reflooring the untouched “inner circle” at South Elementary School, lowering the sinks at the Early Childhood Center, reconfiguring the new high school locker rooms to increase coaches’ office space and adding more security cameras at the high school.

But the highest priority is a change to Lincoln Drive, which runs along the east side of the Middle School. The road has posed a safety risk now that the school has younger students, who rush out of the cafeteria after lunch to the tennis courts across the street.

The district is planning a two-phased project by the end of the summer, where bollards and a raised walkway would discourage drivers on Lincoln Drive. In a future summer, the district wants to dig up a portion of Lincoln Drive to create two drop-off points, but no roadway that runs completely across the east side of the school.

During the joint school board and City Council meeting on April 9, St. Peter Public Works Director Pete Moulton said the need for emergency vehicle access could be satisfied by having a curb that is drivable.

Mayor Chuck Zieman asked about using barricades.

“If you just want it open during certain hours, you could adjust to that instead of reinventing the wheel,” he said.

Moulton said the drawback would be that an open gate would still encourage drive-through traffic.

“I think this is an area where we should spend money,” school board member Ben Leonard said. “The more defined we make that, the more we are going to change people’s behavior.”

Zieman said, “I think there’s a balance between all this unless you guys have all that money to spend.”

Bachman said the second phase is still in the idea stage; no approvals have been made yet.

“How much traffic does Lincoln Drive get that’s not school-related?” Councilwoman Susan Carlin asked.

Bachman said, “Very little.”

Carlin asked, “If we were to eliminate through traffic, that’s not a huge inconvenience, is it?”

Moulton said, “The public doesn’t use it very often.”

Carlin asked if the city could turn over the road to the district.

“That’s been a point of discussion for more than a decade,” City Administrator Todd Prafke said. “It’s very possible and provides more flexibility to the school.”

Reach Associate Editor Nancy Madsen at 507-931-8568 or follow her on @SPHnancy.

Nancy Madsen has written for newspapers in Watertown, N.Y., and Mankato, as well as for PolitiFact Virginia at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Richmond, Va. Nancy is a graduate of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., and Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.

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