Wadena-Deer Creek school settles tornado losses at $40 million
Wednesday was a big day in the history of Wadena-Deer Creek School District as board chairwoman Ann Pate signed a settlement resolution with Riverport Insurance Services in the office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. The $40,861,324 settlement has been four months in the making after a June 17 tornado left the Wadena-Deer Creek Senior and Junior High in ruins.
Engineering reports indicated the 45-year-old school was more than 90 percent destroyed by the EF-4 tornado. The tornado also destroyed several smaller buildings belonging to the district and hit the Wadena County Fairgrounds where 17 of the district's 22 school buses and other school vehicles were housed.
The district's policy covered the loss of the building and its contents. The school opened in 1965 and was added to in 1992.
Demolition work on the school is scheduled to begin the week of Oct. 11. The project, which was awarded to Rachel Contractors, is expected to take five weeks to complete. Construction of a new school is expected to begin April 1, 2011, with a completion date of Sept. 30, 2012.
WDC senior high students are attending classes at M State-Wadena. Seventh- and eighth-grade students are being bused to a school in Deer Creek. WDC Elementary is hosting extracurricular activities.
The WDC school board hired Minneapolis attorney Mike Hatch to represent the district in negotiations with Riverport. Hatch was in Wadena Monday where he presented the settlement offer to the District 2155 school board. The board voted to make Pate their official representative at Wednesday's meeting in St. Paul. Pate made the trip to St. Paul along with board member Steve Techam and WDC superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom. Swanson volunteered to mediate the settlement because of the public nature of the loss.
"It's a tough situation for the community," Swanson said. "A school is a vitally important part of a community."
Dahlstrom said Tuesday that the site of the new school will have to be voted upon by school board. Dahlstrom said Wednesday afternoon that actual amount the district will have to build a new school will be $33.5 million.
"What we are looking for is to bring a healing effect back to the community," Pate said. "We look forward to the design of a wonderful school building."
Kraus-Anderson is the district's general contractor for the project. Perkins+Will has been selected as the project's architect. School board members have visited more than a dozen schools around Minnesota seeking building ideas.