The Mott-Regent School Board gave the community a chance to ask questions about the proposed project and bond referendum.
By COLE BENZ
With just weeks until residents head to the polls to vote on a bond referendum for a new school project in Mott, a public meeting was held in the gymnasium of the high school on Monday, May 23. Another meeting was scheduled in Regent on May 24.
Roughly 30 people were in attendance in Mott and listened to a presentation from Consolidated Construction, the company working with the school district to plan this project. The community also had the opportunity to gather some answers from others involved in the process, including the school board, the superintendent, and EngTech, an engineering firm out of Bismarck.
The proposed $8.696 million project includes repairs to the high school, and the construction of a new, two-story elementary building that would be located just north of the high school. The project also includes the demolition of the current elementary building.
The bond, if passed during the June 14 primary elections, would yield a levy increase of 32.01 mills. The bond would be for 20 years.
After a failed vote two years ago for a similar referendum, the school board has made a concerted effort to increase the transparency of this process. That transparency includes printing information in the local papers, posting the information on the school district’s website, and holding public meetings in both Mott and Regent.
“We have decided as a board to go right down the middle this time,” Mott-Regent School Board President Kevin Roth said. “We’re trying not to take sides on either yes, or no.”
He did note that while the board members carry their individual opinions on the project, as board they are going “right down the middle.”
Without executing the construction plan, estimated maintenance costs over the next 10 years on the current buildings was $7.3 million, according to Jim Perras of Consolidated Construction. And if the bond fails, Roth said the board will have some difficult decisions to make. He said that there are things that need attention in both schools that “can’t be swept under the rug any longer.”
To show the crowd what the current elementary building is facing, a piece of broken concrete was on display at the public meeting. The roughly 3-foot long piece of material had fallen from the ceiling in the boiler room portion of the elementary school.
The board does have some options to cover the costs of maintenance if the bond fails. They can levy 12 miscellaneous mills, and up to 3 more special mills, but Roth was very enthusiastic to The Herald when he said that that isn’t the direction they want to go.
“The school board does not want to do that,” Roth told The Herald. “We would rather have this bond issue pass by a vote of the people.”
School board member Ben Auch said those mills wouldn’t be necessary if the bond passes.
An additional 10 mills can be levied by a vote of the people, according to Superintendent Elroy Burkle.
By passing the bond, the levied 32.01 mills would have a time limit of 20 years, and it could be paid off early if the board has the resources to do so. If the board raised the mills on their own accord, it could be for an indefinite period of time.
Roth afforded anyone who is against the project an opportunity to speak.
“If there’s anybody here that wants to speak against this now too, you’re more than welcome to speak your mind,” Roth said to the crowd. “That’s why we’re here.”
If there were any detractors in the crowd, none of them spoke up.
On more than one occasion, both Roth and Burkle told the crowd that which ever side they support, they want the people to make an informed decision and come out and vote. “Give the board some direction,” Burkle said.
Roth also went so far as to encourage people to double check the work the board has done.
“I have no fear of people coming and checking our facts because we’ve done our work,” Roth told The Herald.
If this referendum fails it’s unclear when another one would be up for public vote, if ever.
A tentative timeline given by Perras puts an August 2017 date as the first time students would be able to attend the new school if the bond is passed.