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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Marinette "Right Size" School Project Is Now Moving Forward

Issue Date: November 18, 2020

By vote of 4,072 in favor and 3,254 opposed, voters of Marinette School District on Tuesday, Nov. 3 approved a resolution authorizing the school district to borrow up to $30, 920,000 for remodeling and renovation projects that have been described as "right sizing the district."

At its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17 The school board heard from representatives of Baird and Associates and Sommerville Architects, the financial and design firms working on the project, and learned that construction is to start in summer of 2021, and elementary classes could be operating in the newly remodeled and expanded Merryman and Park schools by the 2022-2023 school year.

The project is to consist of construction of additions and improvements at Merryman and Park elementary schools and remodeling and improvements at the Middle School and high school along with acquisition of furnishings, fixtures and equipment.

Official canvass of the referendum votes was done and certified on Monday, Nov. 9 by a team that consisted of board members Judy Grace, Thomas Faller and Terri Florek, with their work witnessed by Superintendent's Assistant Maryanne Rich. At the Nov. 17 board meeting Board President John LaCourt congratulated Superintendent Corry Lambie for success of the funding referendum, particularly in view of the pandemic that might have affected results.

Baird spokesman Lisa Voisin, appearing via video conference, also congratulated Lambie and the board on success of the referendum. "I always had you in my "yes' column," she said. "You have great leadership, a great school board and a great community.

She explained funding options available for the issuance of municipal bonds, and declared this is a great time to be borrowing money in the bond market, with interest at an all time low. She said when she started as a financial consultant interest was in the 7 to 8 percent range. Now it is at 2.5 to 3 percent.

She expressed confidence they can get funding to stay within the tax impact of 93 cents or less that was promised to voters. Currently the estimated tax impact would be 70 cents or less, well below that 93 cents per $1,000. Voisin said her goals are to minimize interest costs, minimize interest rate fluctuation, and maximize interest they can earn by borrowing at the right time, as much as $13,000 per month. This money can be used for further upgrades, she said. She plans to get a bond rating from Moody's to issue bonds in the spring, but in the meantime borrow on short term notes to maximize interest earnings. The board was given informational packets and will be asked to make decisions at its December 15 meeting, when she will have a resolution ready to go.

Melanie Parma, speaking for Sommerville Architects, explained a timetable and planning for seeking bids and getting construction stated. The design phase is starting, with Sommerville in charge of architecture and engineering. Bidding will include opportunities for local businesses, including for example UP Architects.

In the design phase Sommerville will do 90 percent of the work, supported by CD Smith, and after construction starts the responsibilities will switch, with CD Smith supported by Sommerville people.

The immediate next step is to focus on design for the Park and Merryman expansions and upgrades, with plans to let bids in spring and start construction of the additions in summer of 2021. She said work will continue through the 2021-2022 school year with completion slated for the start of the school year in fall of 2022.

The immediate next step is to work with school district administration and staff on the schematic design for the buildings. Then in January there will be a staff design meeting, survey work, soil borings, and other preliminary work, after which CD Smith will be a budget check.

In January and February Sommerville architects will work with district administration and staff on design, layouts, etc., and in March and April documents will be prepared for bidding and there will be another budget check.

Parma expects bidding to take place in April and May of 2021.

Lambie thanked Rich for all the work she had done as administrative assistant to help him prepare for the referendum, and her patience in helping him learn the ropes of his new job as District Administrator at the same time. He also thanked Finance Director Shawn Kelly and others for their work.

He said the referendum would have not been approved by the 56 to 44 percent margin had board members not been excellent ambassadors for the project, and emphasized that all along they had emphasized informed voting, with electors knowing why they were being asked to approve the project.

Lambie noted that Board Members Chuck Rowell and Eric Craven had been recognized by WASB for reaching new levels in leadership and board development.

Lambie said the school continues to grapple with Covid-19 problems, and main concerns include social and emotional well being of students. He said after last year's shut-downs staff had to reconnect with students.

"Our goal is to not go virtual, but to be prepared if we do have to make that shift," he declared. He said what everyone in all the district buildings has been doing to cope with Covid is "nothing short of phenomenal."

As of Tuesday, there were one staff member and six students from a student body of 2,000 with positive Covid tests. He felt the low infection rate was a credit to the care that students and staff are taking to avoid getting exposed.


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