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Letter to the editor: Board chairman comments on school project

To the editor:

Dear Mr. Ted Storck and Community Residents,

In last week's (recent) edition of the Steven's County Times, you asked for an explanation as to why our fifty year old high school is in need of serious and costly repairs. Your question is a fair one and I hope this response addresses it appropriately.

Public schools are funded by public taxpayer money from state and local sources. Our budgets are lean and our revenue is not within our control. We remain the only public entity that must ask taxpayers for additional revenue to operate the school district or improve its facilities. It is not within our realistic financial capabilities to save millions of dollars to address expensive system repairs.

We are required to have a ten year facility improvement plan on file with the Minnesota Department of Education and we follow it as aggressively as our budget will allow. We make things last as long as possible and repair them when necessary and replace, if possible, when they are no longer functional.

Throughout the years our district has spent millions of dollars to repair roofing, address HVAC concerns, replace lighting, and replace parking lots. Our fresh water piping, sewage systems and boilers have had sections replaced and have been routinely repaired. This process is continual and we are always faced with having to prioritize maintenance items as our budget would allow.

Our building, plumbing, classrooms and parking lots are used by 1,200 people a day, five days a week for 40 weeks a year. In spite of all our maintenance efforts, everything has a useful, purposeful life. And because of this, our 50 year old high school needs extensive renovations in areas that are critical to the operation of the school. The fresh water pipes are clogged causing multiple plumbing issues and our cast iron sewage pipes are rusting because of age and continuing to fail.

Many of these areas are behind walls and under floors and are not easily repaired or replaced. To address these concerns, cement block walls and concrete floors will need to be removed and replaced as well as existing asbestos will need to be professionally removed. In addition, science lab and art room casework has served its useful life and needs to be replaced and our fifty year old locker rooms have minimal functionality.

Yes, the vast majority of this referendum is all about maintenance and every classroom in the high school will be affected. It's about renovating our high school so future generations can still enjoy its benefits. If anyone would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact Superintendent Rick Lahn or myself. Our numbers can be found on our school website.

Respectfully,

Dick Metzger

Morris Area School Board Chairman

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