WORTHINGTON — A number of Welcome, Education, Library and Livability (W.E.L.L.)-related items were approved during Tuesday’s regular Independent School District 518 Board of Education meeting.
By 5-2 votes, the board approved two Memorandam of Understanding (MOU) agreements proposed between the school, city of Worthington and Nobles County. The MOU agreements pertained to sharing facility service costs and expenses related to geotechnical services on the Second Avenue site, and are contingent upon both the city and county board also approving them.
By 5-2 votes, the board also approved sharing in $269,000 in costs for an architectural contract with LHB and an owner’s representative contract with ICS — a total cost that's estimated at $1.2 million, from start to finish.
Board members Mike Harberts and Adam Blume cast the two no votes on each W.E.L.L.-related agenda item.
Following the meeting, Blume said his no votes weren't because he opposes the W.E.L.L. project, but rather that there's still many unknowns — from the county's involvement to actual project costs. He disagrees with committing $12.5 million to it in advance of passing a solution to the district’s overcrowding issue. Blume is also concerned the cost to complete the W.E.L.L. will be more than what the district has budgeted for it.
After the meeting, Harberts said there are a number of reasons he voted no, including the potential contamination on the site and the project's financing.
"We own good, clean, buildable property with no issues," Harberts said.
Harberts said he disagrees with the board’s decision to commit $12.5 million — funds he said could have been committed to the upcoming intermediate school bonding requests or the second-story high school addition. The addition, estimated to cost $4 million, will use approximately $2.9 million from the district’s lease levy authority, which Harberts has opposed.
"The school board opted to do those business measures in order to eliminate the voice of the people through a vote," he said. "Timing was not a problem. Three weeks from now, we could have had it on the ballot."
Board Treasurer Linden Olson said numbers attached to the project remain preliminary until the state legislature makes a decision on the W.E.L.L. bonding request. He added that should the W.E.L.L. project not continue, documents and site work prepared by an architect should still be of value to the district if it prepares to build on a different site.
In other school board business, the board:
Heard a report from student representative Aunna Groenewold regarding ALICE emergency preparedness training that is being introduced to students. Groenewold reported that the active shooter drills introduced to students have been met with uneasiness and discomfort and caused many questions, but that staff have been good with answering those questions. She said the topic isn’t something students like to have on their minds, but reported that as the training progressed, students became more understanding and glad that the district is taking an active role in its preparedness.
Approved a Sunday K-3 club wrestling meet.