The Fieldcrest Board of Education discussed various configurations for the proposed new school building at a special Building Committee meeting Wednesday night at the Fieldcrest High School gymnasium in Minonk. The consensus of the board, except for Charles Lohr, was a 7-12 building and having grades k-3 in Minonk and grades 4-6 in Toluca although no vote was taken on the consensus.
Prior to the board's discussion, Matt Zulz spoke to the board of behalf of elected officials and businessmen in the Fieldcrest community. He said the group felt it was not in everyone's best interest to have towns compete against each other for a new building and would bring irreversible damage to community relationships. He said residents are happy with the current building arrangement in the Fieldcrest district. He proposed the board complete the Life-Safety requirements in Toluca, construct a new middle school building in Wenona utilizing the gymnasium and construct a new high school in Minonk. He said it is the group's hope this will bring families to the Fieldcrest district and increase the student population.
Board member Tim McNamara said he favors having a 7-12 building at one site and move the middle school grades to Toluca. Board president Joe Kirkpatrick concurred saying this arrangement will reduce administrative cost and will bring the Toluca and Minonk grade schools up to code for life-safety.
Board members Elizabeth Palm,Kimberly McKay and Scott Hillenburg also supported a new 7-12 building. Mr. Hillenburg said the gymnasiums in Wenona and Minonk should be given to the communities and a new gymnasium should be constructed with the new building. He emphasized that a quality building should be constructed that will last 50 years rather than building a cheap one that will need to be repaired or demolished in 30 years.
Board member MyKin Bernardi said she is not in favor of the 7-12 building. If any building were to be built she would entertain the idea of a 9-12 building. Also hearing the recognition of the good shape the middle school and high school gymnasiums are in she felt after much discussion of location and protocols of soil conditions the option of a hybrid building using the Minonk gym for the high school and a hybrid building using the Wenona gym for the middle school may also be a sensible choice.
Board member Charles Lohr said he doesn't want to build a new building and neither does the communities. He said rural communities are losing population and with declining enrollment it is better to just do enough to get through the next 5 years and see what the situation is then. He said he talked to a state official who said a school building has to be in terrible shape before the state would take action and added the state doesn't have the time or the desire to close down a school.
After a majority agreement that a 7-12 building is preferable, the board discussed the changes needed in the secondary school at Toluca and the primary school in Minonk to accommodate moving grade 6 to Toluca and grade 3 from Toluca to Minonk.
Fieldcrest Superintendent Dr. Dan Oakley said he will contact engineers at The Farnsworth Group to analyze the feasibility of moving walls in the buildings to add more class rooms. He also will get an estimate of square footage needed to accommodate the desired classes and to determine the repair cost.
Dr, Oakley said the next step is to determine the requirements for the new building and wanted to create a design team that include not only architects and the board members but also school staff members, students and parents.
The final topic was discussing the location of the new 7-12 building. Dr. Oakley said the board needs to determine the process for deciding the building location. In addition, he mentioned the various considerations in determining the location such as the availability of fire protection, security, ambulances, sewer, natural gas and enough water pressure to run a sprinkler system for 3 minutes. He also said the number of acres needed must be determined. He said Farnsworth engineers said 30 acres are needed to accommodate a school for the number of students at Fieldcrest. He also mentioned that flooding and subsidence are other factors to consider when selecting a site.
Ms.Palm said she was concerned about subsidence in the area north of Minonk that is being considered for the building site saying that there is a landfill north of Minonk. Mr. Kirkpatrick said the landfill is not a typical landfill but consists of garbage dumped down the old mine shaft 1/2 mile north of Minonk. Dr. Oakley said Minonk, Toluca and Wenona all have mine shafts to some degree underneath their communities. In any case, he said core samples would have to be taken from a site to determine if it was safe to build on.
Ms. Palm said there was 17 acres in Wenona that could be considered for the building site but wanted more information before making any decision on building sites. Dr. Oakley added that the board needed to get a cut and dried offer from the various parties offering building sites before making a decision.
Mr. Lohr said he didn't want to see communities starting a bidding war against each other. He suggested that an outside party make a decision on which is the best building site.
Mr. Hillenburg said the land north of Minonk already has water and sewer running through the property and that the owner of the land was willing to work with the school in making the land available. He re-emphasized the importance of property values when deciding where to build as the community that loses its building will have lower property values implying that because Minonk is twice as large as Wenona, more value will be lost in property in Minonk if it loses the high school.
Board president Kirkpatrick said the board needs to assign points to the each of the requirements for a new building in order to come up with a quantitative answer to the building site.
Dr. Oakley said the next building committee meeting will be held April 4.
Mr. Kirkpatrick reminded those in attendance that there is a referendum on the ballot in the March 20 election for a value added tax that will help support the schools in Woodford County. Mr. McNamara said the tax will be paid not only by local residents but also by anyone who stops to buy something in the Minonk area.
Notice of Revision: This article has been updated in paragraph 5 to reflect the views of MyKin Bernardi.
Chris Winters: Palm is everything you hate in an elective official. She has an obvious personal motive and anytime things do not go her way she pouts, provides information that is not factual ( like saying she can build a school for half of what the engineer says because she read it online ) or in this case she just starts grasping at straws in order to get her way. Beth do what is right and build a school in the best location for the cheapest price even if it not in Wenona. The Fieldcrst Community is watching!
Jeff Peterson: The cheapest price would obviously be Wenona, as the district already owns the land and a gymnasium would not need to be constructed because there is nothing wrong with it. Obviously our board is not concerned about the cheapest price....just Minonks property values...
Chris Winters: That would be a great point Jeff if it was true. If you read the past meeting notes there is not enough ground owned by the school to build a new school. So unless the land fairy is going to give them ground for free they will be forced to buy another 10 to 20 acres. Questions have to be asked if that ground is even available to purchased. I agree with you 100% but if the school has to buy the ground they should try to leverage what they already own however it was my understanding that the city of Minonk was going to give them whatever they needed. Is that not right? So if that is the case and Minonk is giving them ground you would agree that building in Minonk would be cheaper correct? Nor only would they not have to pay for the ground but they could sell the ground they currently own and profit. I would keep the gym in Wenona and take everything down everything else, the district always needs gym space. Not here to argue city versus city but people's feelings get in the way of facts. My point in the post was the board members need to get rid of the feelings and vote with the facts. Beth seems to continue to struggle with that. Let's wait until all the facts come out, but now that you mentioned it should there be a consideration about your largest community in the district property values??? Or are you good with your taxes tripling. Thanks for the post it makes us all think
Nathan Applebee: How much land does the district already own in wenona?
Chris Winters: The school owns 16-17 in Wenona, but only 2/3 is buildable unless you want to do away with the diamond. So to build there you would need an additional 20-25 for the school and an additional 10 or more for a sports complex. Toluca actually has more ground than both Minonk and Wenona. Minonk sits 10 not including the church site, south or the football field. Bottom line, to build on to Wenona would take 30 plus just like it will take 30 new in Minonk unless they wake up and build on the current Location of both. Tough road for taxpayers - glad I rent :).
Nathan Applebee: I'm not even from your district. So it really isn't my battle. I just thought 30 acres seemed a little large for a campus for a smaller student body.