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Nevis Pig Races a go after school approves seating

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

BY JEAN RUZICKA

Spectators of the Nevis Pig Races were nearly faced with a standing-room-only fiasco, but the Nevis School Board, after considerable discussion, agreed to abrogate a recently adopted policy on loaning equipment in this instance.

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The premise under which the school’s bleachers will be loaned: Students will be involved in the races as a “community service” initiative.

Dave McCurnin, who spearheads the July 7 event in Nevis, arrived at this week’s meeting after being informed the school would no longer loan the bleachers for the C&C-sponsored event. The decision on this had been reached earlier this year.

Nevis School bleachers have seated the hundreds of spectators arriving for the event the past few years. McCurnin indicated without use of the 10 to 12 sets of bleachers, future events might be cancelled.

Board chair Ed Becker indicated this was an inevitable dilemma after approving a “blanket policy” based on Minnesota School Board Association recommendations on the public’s use of the school’s assets. “Taxpayer dollars are for educating students,” he said.

“We can amend the policy,” board member Gary Stennes said, “but we may open a can of worms.”

“The problem is the next person who comes along,” Becker agreed.

“Can we rent them?” McCurnin asked.

“Or sell them?” board member Justin Isaacson asked, indicating they were not in use year-round by the school.

“Sell them to us, we’ll loan them to you,” McCurnin said.

“At any given time, the most we use is eight,” athletic director Bryan Wormley said.

”Ed said it best,” superintendent Steve Rassier said of Becker’s statement, “Taxpayer dollars should be used for education only.”

But he acknowledged that the C&C is a non-profit community based organization and Tiger Pride promotes civic volunteerism.

“Volunteer hours teach kids community service,” board member Jeannette Dudley.

A consensus began to evolve.

“This is a lesson on how to work in the community,” Becker said. “I think I can buy that.”

The board, by unanimous vote, agreed to “allow usage of the bleachers under the premise students will be involved.”

“I think we may want to reconsider civic groups’ use of equipment,” Becker said, but did not elaborate.

After the meeting, McCurnin, made some tongue-in-cheek observations on the decision.

“What could be more educational than the Nevis Pig Races?” he asked. There’s math (pari-mutuel betting and selling tickets) and physical activity (pumping up the crowd via tumbling and cheerleading). They learn police work (crowd control) and marketing (putting up posters).

And best of all, there are no report cards.

In other action, the board:

n Agreed to table a decision on participating in the Qualified Zone Academy Bonds. The school is eligible to borrow $500,000, which would be used for technology ($200,000) and building upgrades ($300,000).

Administration of the program comes with a 5 percent fee with little or no interest. Payment would be over a 10-year period, Rassier explained in a memo to the board.

The technology funds would be used to purchase digital devices for students in grades 8-12 and upgrade the network.

The building dollars would fund replacement of the original gym’s flooring and to install bleachers. Rassier noted the Tiger Arena’s sound system needs an upgrade as do the parking lots.

But board member Andy Lindow spoke in opposition, pointing out the district is “already spending huge chunks of money. Why borrow money if we don’t absolutely need to do it?”

He asked that projects and costs be brought before the board before a decision to borrow money is made. “That’s how government works, spending tons of money and then go and get another half-million because it’s cheap. But it might not be things that we necessarily need,” Lindow said.

“This board has a record of being fiscally sound,” Becker said. “We need to work on projects. If we wait for the magic money gods to drop money, we’re living in a dream world. If we wait to save the money, that someday will never come unless we commit to it and do it. The question is, is this something we want to do?”

Lindow asked for a “list to see what the money goes for, if the money is needed. Taxpayers will be asking.”

“The money will come from the operating budget,” Becker said.

“And the taxpayers pay every dime,” Lindow said.

“I agree with Andy,” Stennes said. “I’d feel better if I knew what it’s being spent for.”

The decision was tabled.

The board subsequently approved a computer network upgrade at a cost of $18,751, as well as $65,081 for replacement of the original gym and a four-row bleacher system and the purchase of Northwoods Electrical building for $28,000. The bus garage will be expanded to accommodate larger buses at a cost of $9,629.

The board also approved applying for use of the district’s “Disabled Access” levy authority of up to $120,000, a final decision to be made on using the funds to be made by December. Taxpayers will not see an increase due to a previous levy amount having been satisfied, Rassier told the board.

“We need better planning,” Lindow reiterated later in the meeting after the further expenses were approved. “The iPads shouldn’t have been sprung on us.”

“We need to plan for the future,” Becker reminded him. He noted the school has heating and cooling issues that need to be addressed.

n Granted tenure to Andrew Dahlby, Bill Dent, Amy Klimek, Kay Netteberg and Abigail Henry.

n Approved the 2013-14 budget reflecting general fund expenses of $5,639,961 and general fund revenue of $5,744,950, based on an enrollment of 547 students.

n Will call for gas quotes and bread and milk bids.

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