Park Rapids Schools seek legislative relief for construction costs

Superintendent Lance Bagstad called the construction inflation, faced by school districts working on bonded improvements, "unprecedented."

Park Rapids Area High School, front entrance
Park Rapids Enterprise file photo, October 2021

Superintendent Lance Bagstad told the Park Rapids School Board on Monday about pending legislation to address how “unprecedented construction inflation” is affecting Minnesota school districts that have recently passed school improvement bonds.

Bagstad urged anyone interested to follow Senate File 2615 and House File 2917.

He said about 14-18 school districts, including Park Rapids Area, have been hit by recent jumps in construction costs after passing bond referendums.

“We banded together and worked with our legislators to put a bill into the Legislature,” he said, “to hopefully get some reprieve from the inflation that we’ve been seeing in our projects.”

Bagstad suggested looking at a resolution in support of the legislation at the school board’s next meeting. “That would show unity within our districts, and hopefully would make an impact with our legislators down in St. Paul,” he said.


On a similar note, Business Manager Kent Fritze warned the school board that if certain educational mandates working their way through the State Legislature pass, “we’re in big trouble.

“The proposals that are out there would put us in a big hole, compared to the funding that they are proposing,” he said. “I would talk to your legislators and say, stop some of these mandates that they’re proposing.”

Bids awarded for bus garage

The school board awarded contracts totaling $2,166,869 for construction of a new bus garage on school property.

According to a bid recommendation letter from ICS project engineers, contracts for six work scopes were awarded, including:

  • $613,443 to Gordon Construction of Mahnomen, Inc., for earth work, out of five competitive bids.
  • $576,900 to Leech Lake Builders (d.b.a. LLB Concrete) of Laporte for structural placed concrete, out of four bids.
  • $299,300 to Haataja Contracting, Inc. of Menahga for general construction, out of four bids.
  • $113,036 to NOVA Fire Protection, Inc. of Fargo for fire suppression, out of two bids.
  • $355,000 to Esser Plumbing & Heating of Perham for mechanical, out of three bids.
  • $209,200 to T and T Electric, LLC of Grand Forks for electrical, out of six bids.

In other business, the school board:

  • Awarded vendor contract for 2023-24 to Upper Lakes Foods with option to renew for three additional years, ending June 30, 2027 upon mutual agreement. USF also submitted a bid. Food service director J.T. Clark said the district bid the contract out as part of a buying group with the Staples, Verndale, Sebeka and Wadena school districts, who decided not to go through Sourcewell this year.
  • Heard Activities Director Jeremy Nordick report that the school’s appeal of its football classification was successful, and the team will be moved down to a AA section next year.
  • Approved the resignation of Megan Rykus as head boys swimming coach.
  • Hired Ruth Boatright as a bus driver, effective March 13, and Grace Balfanz as an elementary paraprofessional.
  • Approved volunteer Jacob Hutchins as girls golf coach.
  • Approved an April speech team public showcase with a free-will donation as a fundraiser for the team.
  • Approved out-of-state travel for BPA members traveling to nationals April 25-30 in Anaheim, Calif.
  • Heard director of curriculum and instruction Jill Stevenson report that third-trimester enrollment in the district’s virtual academy is at capacity. 
  • Heard Century School Principal Mike LeMier discuss an upcoming class trip to Bemidji, where fourth and fifth graders will hear their first orchestra concert, and the installation of tamper-proof vape detectors in school bathrooms as a deterrent to students who “have been on the fence” and are curious about vaping.
  • Received an enrollment update showing that since Feb. 16, the district’s enrollment has stayed approximately the same, with K-12 enrollment decreasing by three students from 1,581 to 1,578, while overall enrollment including pre-K, early childhood and alternative learning went up by four students from 1,715 to 1,719.
  • Acknowledged a donation of hands-on math materials through to Ky DeBlieck’s first-grade classroom.
  • Approved payments presented for March, totaling $1,295,503.

The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 3 at the Frank White Education Center.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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