Bond narrowly passes for new school project

Mott-Regent will be getting a new school.

The current elementary school will be demolished when the new one is built. (Photo by Cole Benz/The Herald)
The current elementary school will be demolished when the new one is built. (Photo by Cole Benz/The Herald)

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor
cbenz@countrymedia.net

After accepting one mail-in ballot during the canvassing meeting on June 20, the total vote count was 639, with 390 for the bond and 249 against it, narrowly surpassing the required 60 percent to pass the bond.

The bond will be for $8.696 million and levy 32.01 mills over the span of 20 years. The project will see renovations to the current high school, demolition of the current elementary school and the construction of a new elementary school.

This puts to rest an issue that’s been a hot topic for more than two years. In 2014 the school board attempted to pass a similar bond, but that vote was for a project costing an estimated $14 million. That vote failed by a wide margin.

Outgoing school board president Kevin Roth thought that this project is a good compromise from the one two years ago.

“It’s been a long process,” Roth said. “It was a great compromise from the first one to this one.”

Roth told the Herald that the people gave great feedback, and that the board and the Vision For The Future Task Force took that to heart, and the results showed with a passed vote.

Residents in Mott cast 358 votes for the bond, while 194 votes went against it. But the majority of voters in Regent did not support the bond. There were 55 votes against the bond while only 32 votes went in support.

New district superintendent Viola LaFontaine said that she recognizes the sensitivity of the issue and the difficult decision the community had to make, as evident by the close vote.

Ultimately LaFontaine said that she is happy with the way it went and that it will be a great endeavor to foster the education of Mott-Regent students.

“It really helps, I think, with bringing new technology, 21st century learning to our kids, and for us to be able to be more capable to offer, I think, expanded and upgraded curriculum to the kids,” LaFontaine said. “That’s one of the reasons I think it’s a good deal.”

She also told the Herald that she believes a school is vital to communities.

“To me, a school is the cornerstone of a community and if we want our children to get a good education, stay in the community or come back to the community,” LaFontaine said. “That’s what really keeps a community alive.”

This isn’t the first experience with a new building project for LaFontaine. She had just been through a similar process with the Williston School District, her previous employer. Her previous work with a school project, according to Roth, is one of the reasons the board chose her to replace the departing Elroy Burkle.

“That is why the Mott-Regent School Board is very comfortable having Dr. LaFontaine on board,” Roth said. “She’s been through this before and will be able to shepherd us through this very handily I feel.”

The board had already been working with at-risk construction company Consolidated Construction and EngTech Engineers, an engineering and architectural firm with offices in Bismarck. LaFontaine said meetings will take place right away now that the bond has passed. The two companies have already completed much of the preliminary work, so in the event the bond passed, they would be able to continue to the next steps in the process seamlessly.

The board and the task force ran into an issue late in the process. The Watch Dog group of North Dakota sent out false information regarding the number of mills that would be levied if the bond passed. But that information was turned over to the state’s attorney to handle, according to Roth. He didn’t have any further comments on the issue.

Now that the bond has passed and work can begin, construction is expected to take place over the course of one year, with the hopes that students will be attending the new school in August of 2017.

“I think it’s huge for out two communities,” Roth said. “to be able to have a new school going up in our community is huge.”

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