Published Date: Feb 14, 2023 Updated Feb 14, 2023
By Line: Ruth Erickson
Published in: Chronotype

At its meeting Monday, the Rice Lake Board of Education approved a projected timeline for the Rice Lake Aquatic and Recreation Center to move forward while aware that building costs continue to soar.

The timeline for Phase 1 sets the securing of pool bids in March and the beginning of construction in June. The project completion date is now October 2024. The timeline for Phase 2 sets demolition of the current pool and the beginning of construction of a Boys and Girls Clubs of Barron County/Community Center also in October 2024.

The project has been talked about for a decade and earnestly underway since fall 2021, when a nonprofit fundraising organization was established to provide a modern aquatics and recreational space which will accommodate the health, wellness and athletic needs of the community. Its original project cost of $7.5 million already has increased to $11 million as of last year and projected cost estimates since then are at least $1.5 million higher, the Buildings and Grounds Committee reported at the meeting.

Board President Keven Jensen requested a motion to move the process forward to show the district is still committed to the project.

District Administrator Randy Drost said they will know more definitive numbers in March after the bids come back. Even with a projected increase in the pool project he said the district is not expecting the tax levy to go up because of this. Despite the increases he is confident the district can do its share, helped by ending costs of the HVAC project at the middle school, and the levy from the debt on the Tainter and High School projects structured so as to decrease in the next 10 years. He said a $2 million tax credit put toward the project and the chance to receive a “significant” FEMA grant if the facility can be configured to serve as a storm shelter could all help to make it happen.

In addition, Drost is hoping expanding the usage of both the current and new facility will increase pool revenue and he assured that the other entities — the RLARC and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Barron County — have been and are continuing to fundraise. He said pool manager Courtney Foss reports the current pool is fully staffed and ready to increase usage with spring swimming lessons and more hours of operation.

In other business, the school board:

  • Approved retirement requests for high school science teacher Mary LaVick after 28 years, English/History teacher Jean Havenor after 39 years, counselor Mike Shomion after 31 years, English teacher/literacy coach Tya Shomion after 30 years, third-grade teachers Dan Webber after 33 years and Nancy Hoff after 21 years, and second-grade teacher Jodie Anderson after eight years.
  • Accepted the employment requests for Lindsay Fekete, cook/kitchen assistant; Maria Cortez-Schneider, part-time lifeguard; Mike Ashlin, assistant varsity baseball coach; Todd Kobielush, middle school golf coach; and a temporary increase in hours for high school math teacher Darla Olson.
  • Authorized the creation of a new high school activity account, Warriors for Christ.
  • Heard that the enrollment count, as of the second Friday of January, was 2,183 which is the full-time equivalent count that is used to set state revenue. That number is down 17 students from the September enrollment count.
Rice Lake Aquatics and Recreation Center Rendering, March 2023

Rice Lake Aquatics and Recreation Center Rendering, March 2023

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