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August 23, 2019

6/22/2019 7:30:00 AM
School board to hear building, dome presentations Monday evening

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter

Two weeks after a historic vote approving the construction of an indoor athletic facility, the School District of Rhinelander Board of Education will hear presentations Monday evening from contractors who specialize in building the two types of structures it is considering for the new facility - air-powered domes and steel buildings.

According to district superintendent Kelli Jacobi, two companies will make presentations on steel buildings and a third will go over the options for a dome structure.

The presentations, part of a special meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Superior Diesel Advancement Learning Center, are the next step following the board's unanimous vote June 10 to spend up to $5.7 million in district funds toward the construction of an indoor athletic facility.

The total price tag of the project, reportedly the largest in district history, is approximately $6.9 million but $1.2 million is to come from private donors via the Hodag Schools Foundation, including a $500,000 donation from Dr. Lee Swank and family.

The vote came after HSF president Dave Heck made a presentation to the school board May 28 urging an investment in the community's future.

At that time, the district's director of business services Marta Kwiatkowski (who is set to leave her position at the end of the month) explained that due to an uptick in state aid, coupled with belt-tightening over the past several years, the general fund could handle a $3.45 million contribution to the project. Another $2.25 million would come from the maintenance budget over three years at $750,000 a year, she said,

Swank got the ball rolling late last year when he announced his intention to donate $500,000 toward the construction of an indoor athletic facility. At the time, Swank noted that he had observed the frustrations spring sports teams, in particular, have experienced over the years when persistent wintry weather has interfered with their ability to practice and compete.

According to Jacobi, the special meeting is being held to put the board members in a better position to make a final decision as to whether a dome or steel building is the best option for Rhinelander.

"What I understand what the board wants is help in deciding which way to go; do we want a building or do we want a dome?" Jacobi said. "And that's my intent in bringing them more information."

While a dome could be constructed that could stay up only six months of the year, most board members seem to be leaning toward the year-round option due to much lower annual maintenance costs, if the board opts for the dome.

Jacobi said it's unclear at this point when the board might be ready to make a decision and noted the panel may opt to hold a site visit before a final vote.

"I would hope that they would be able to make a decision next week, but I'm prepared to take another month," she said. "I will set up tours if I need to go visit a dome somewhere if they actually need to see one. Sometimes that helps people understand better."

She said if that is the direction the board would like her to go, it would be sometime in July before a final decision is made. The goal would be to have the construction start on either option by the end of the summer or early fall.

"If it's a building and it gets started in decent weather, enough of it can get done (before winter) so that they can keep working," Jacobi said. "I don't know what the timeline is for a dome, but they're both big projects. I would not expect them to be ready for this upcoming school year."

Of the two options, a dome would be the faster to construct, she added.

"The preliminary work would take some time," Jacobi said. "The design, where we're going to put it (dome) and all of those things because we really want to make sure we're really thinking everything through."

She said part of that preliminary work would involve site selection.

"We want to really think through all of those issues. We don't want to rush that," Jacobi said. "We really want to make sure that we're doing due diligence."

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