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Menahga School brings voters to the polls for third time

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Voters will once again head to the polls to vote for a Menahga School District bond issue.

After several meetings with members of the community the Menahga School Board decided to call for a special election Aug. 10 to coincide with the primary. This will be the third time within the last year voters have been asked to vote on a building bond issue.

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The bond request has been scaled back again, this time to $4.35 million. The latest referendum in April failed with 549 yes votes and 586 no votes. It was scaled back to $4.95 million for that election. In November, an $8.5 million referendum failed by 56 percent of the vote.

School board members said the need has not gone away and the district needs to take advantage of zero percent interest.

"I look at it as, the needs have been here, they've been here for years," said board member Jody Bjornson at Monday's school board meeting. "My feeling is that now is the time. I know there are economic difficulties for some people. I'm out on the truck every day and I'm seeing the economy growing back."

He also said there won't be another time where interest rates are this low.

"It's my feeling that it's time to go to the voters again, one more time," he said. "We've gotten down to the basic needs."

The ballot will have one question: "Shall the school board of Independent School District No. 821 (Menahga) be authorized to issue its general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $4,350,000 to provide funds for the acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities, including the construction and equipping of five elementary classrooms, a physical education classroom/gymnasium, a weight room, women's and men's locker rooms and bathrooms, a concession area, an entry, and kitchen storage?"

Board member Brad Goehrig said he knows there are people in the community who are not in favor of the project but he thinks this is the best opportunity for the kids.

"When I ran for this position I ran on the platform that I would do what is best for the kids and our kids need these things," he said. "I know there are people who don't have kids or moved here and have their kids go to a different school. I know it's a tough sell in this time and I think the board and the committee is going to have to do a real good job of getting out all the facts to the people so they can decide, maybe in a way they haven't before."

This project would solve all the Americans with Disabilities Act non-compliance issues the school has, said board chairman Durwin Tomperi.

"I think it's huge that we get this problem solved because if we do not solve it, the alternative is, if it's pushed, we will need to remedy it and have to do a levy without voter participation," he said. "Granted, there's a lot of people saying 'what part of no don't you understand?' Well, the part of no I do understand is that, no, I'm not going to sit back and not address the needs of our students."

The interest free money and the scaled down project are reasons to go back to the voters, Tomperi said.

Board member Curtis Hasbargen agreed that the zero percent interest rate is something that can't be passed up.

According to the financial advisers, going forward with zero percent interest could save $2.4 million over the life of the project.

"If we can save $2 to $3 million over the life of the project and meet the needs of our students...then I think we should go forward," said board member Raymond Aho.

The board voted unanimously to call for the special election Aug. 10.

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