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Fieldcrest Gives Referendum Presentation

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - Posted 9:07:26 PM

Fieldcrest Superintendent Dr. Dan Oakley gave a public presentation of the upcoming school building referendum at the Fieldrest High School gymnasium Wednesday night in MInonk. Dr. Oakley gave a brief history of events leading up to the decision to build a new high school in Minonk and a new middle school in Wenona.

Dr. Oakley said the discussion on the school's building started in 2011 when the school's engineering firm, The Farnsworth Group, did a study that revealed that it would cost $25 million to repair the school buildings. Initially, the school board wanted to consolidate all classes into one building in a central location but further study revealed that the infrastructure cost and security issues were too great to consider that option.

A second option was discussed in which buildings would be added on to the existing buildings and remove sections that were too costly to repair. But that approach would cost over $41 million and would be disruptive by having to relocate students during the construction.

The Health/Life Safety survey conducted in 2016 indicated repair cost of $29 million to bring the school buildings in compliance with state mandates. After the new school board was elected in 2017, a decision was made to have a school building in each community. This led to a final decision to demolish the high school in Minonk and replace it with a new building and replace the middle school in Wenona with a new building while keeping the newer gymnasium. John Bishop, the architect for the Farnsworth Group, said one of the reasons the high school building would be so expensive to repair is because of the water damage that has accrued over the years due to its construction materials.

A design team consisting of community members, board members and teachers was formed to come up with parameters for the new buildings. While the original design resulted in a cost of $25 million, the cost was later adjusted upward to $29 million. The design team made trips to new school buildings in Lacon and Fisher and decided to go with a metal construction framework.

Construction Manager Rick Krischel said the decision to use metal framework provided a significant reduction in the cost of the building. Mr. Krischel also said the Fieldcrest design team was one of the best design teams he has worked with. Christy Ruestman, who was a member of the design team, said she was impressed with the school building they toured in Fisher.

After Dr. Oakley's opening presentation questions were received from the audience. The site of the new high school would be located in Section 6 immediately north of route 251 at the north end of Minonk. Dr. Oakley indicated the $29 million cost included the price of the land which is supposed to be given to the school. The land area covers 30 acres and is located west of a farm chemical plant but it has not yet been determined how close it will be to the plant until soil tests are complete. The cost also includs demolition cost which includes demolishing the high school, gymnasium, bus barn and ag shop, and the former Presbyterian church. It was noted that to keep the current gymnasium would require a new heating plant which would be quite expensive.

There are no mine tunnels underneath the school building site as the location is in an area of an abandoned coal mine. The school's outdoor athletic events will continue to be held at Veterans Park in Minonk.

John Bishop, the architect from The Farnsworth Group, then gave a slide presentation showing interior and exterior renderings of the proposed high school. Mr. Bishop said the class rooms are all 840 square feet in size and can hold up to 24 students. He said there will be electronic surveillance with cameras and lock down doors that require permission for entry by non students and staff. The hallways are broken up by a concession area to limit the line of sight in case of an intruder.

There will be no auditorium in the new high school. Mr. Bishop said due to budget constraints an auditorium was dropped because it is a expensive feature that is not used that often. The locker room adjoining the gymnasium will also serve as a storm shelter and has more secure construction materials than the rest of the building.

To view interior and exterior views of the proposed high school. click here.

Mr.Bishop then presented slides of the middle school in Wenona. It also will have a metal frame construction to cut cost. The newer gymnasium and the bus barn on the site will be preserved but the other buildings will be demolished after construction. Students will be able to attend the current school buildings until the new building is complete. The current baseball field north of the school will remain intact.

The cafeteria will be used as a study hall during non-meal times. The locker rooms will also serve as a storm shelter and the entire building will have air conditioning and a sprinkler system same as the high school. All class rooms will have door locks and some will have surveillance cameras. In addition, furniture from the current school buildings will be used as much as possible.

To view interior and exterior views of the proposed middle school. click here.

After Mr. Bishop's presentation, Dr. Oakley discussed the tax impact from the new buildings. He said property taxes will go up $390 on a $100,000 house, although he mentioned that they could go higher or lower based on the direction of interest rates.

Dr.Oakley said if the referendum passes, the school will need to get legislation passed that will allow the school to extend its debt ceiling from $19 million to $29 million. He indicated this procedure is common among schools seeking to do new construction.

Dr. Oakley concluded the presentation by giving a time line of events if the referendum passes.
  • January 2019- Board petitions legislature
  • May-June 2019- Expected completion of legislation
  • July 2019 - Begin bid process, groundbreaking ceremonies, bond sale process
  • September 2019 - Expected construction to begin with land work, funds likely available
  • Spring 2020 - Tax increase appears on annual property tax
  • August 2021 - Earliest new buildings could open