Published Date: April 19, 2022 Updated August 26, 2022
By Line: Ruth Erickson
Published in: Chronotype

Exterior Rendering

With no discussion the Rice Lake Board of Education approved both a Ground Lease and Occupancy and Use Agreement between the School District and the Rice Lake Aquatics and Recreation Center at its April 11 meeting.

The Rice Lake Aquatics and Recreation Center is a nonprofit that has been raising funds for the pool project since it was formed last year. It is about halfway to its goal, according to Rice Lake Area School District Director of Finance and Operations Pat Blackaller, who shared an update on the project after the meeting.

“Our hope is there will be a groundbreaking this summer or early fall, but that will depend on a lot of factors,” Blackaller said.

The project will include an aquatic center with two pools. One pool will be a lap pool with multiple uses; the other pool will be an exercise/recreation pool. Additionally as part of this project the existing pool will be renovated into a community gym and walking track with help from the city of Rice Lake.

Blackaller said there is a promising new development related to funding for the project. He stated he was “strongly optimistic” that the nonprofit will receive between $2.2 million to $2.5 million in tax credits toward the project. He indicated that the non-profit won’t have a 100% confirmation regarding the tax credits until summer, but it looks very positive at this point.

INTERIOR Rendering 3

“One we have enough funds donated to the project we will be able to move ahead, and at that point the tax credit commitment should be solidified,” the finance director said.

“It’s difficult to explain,” Blackaller said. “There are a bunch of moving parts that we have to get to all work together.”

As part of the lease agreement between the district and nonprofit, construction will not start “until both parties have mutually agreed that financing necessary to construct the facility has been obtained.”

The district will be managing the construction for the nonprofit with the Rice Lake Aquatics and Recreation Center organization owning the building. The nonprofit is leasing the land to build the Aquatic Center.

The Rice Lake Aquatics and Recreation Center nonprofit is fundraising, applying for other alternative funding sources, and will be financing part of the construction costs. The district will lease the building back from the nonprofit in exchange for making the facility broadly available to the community.

The 13-page Occupancy and Use Agreement details land acquisition/design, property, use of facility term, fees and charges, contingencies and covenants, signage, insurance, maintenance, damage/destruction, notices, brokers and more. Under fees and charges, it states that “the District will make a lease prepayment of $2 million on or before June 30, 2023. Such prepayment will be delayed until the project actually commences.”

Blackaller said overall the project is progressing, although the project cost will be higher than the originally projected $7.5 million due to increasing construction costs. To keep up with the latest developments or see conceptual art for the new facility, go to its Facebook page at

Outgoing members recognized

The district and board showed their appreciation to outgoing school board members with parting gifts. Board President Keven Jensen gave each a school bell, and District Administrator Randy Drost gave them a plaque for “dedicated service.”

The three outgoing school board members are Deanna Aubart, leaving after three years; Josh Estreen, moving on after six years, and Gary Spear, who bowed out after nine years. Each were given an opportunity to speak. Aubart declined.

Estreen said his biggest takeaway from serving on the board is seeing all the behind-the-scenes efforts of the administrators and the work and “tons of time” that teachers put in for the sake of their students. “I’m proud to have two boys who get to go to school here,” he said.

Spear thanked his colleagues on the board and said his departure brings closure to 66 years in education, from kindergarten to the present. “Mari and I are fortunate our kids could go through the Rice Lake Area School District. Please keep up the good work and strive to make it better for the ones you’ve got and the ones who are going to be coming through.”

New board members — Phil Henkel, Miriam Vavra and Dianne Koser — will fill the seats of the retiring board members at the May 9 meeting.

In other business, the school board:

• Accepted the resignation of Patricia McDonald, cook at Tainter Elementary School.

• Approved the employment of Michelle Jondreau, library media specialist; Shannon Dushek, Jessica Wright and Kelsey McCracken, special education teachers; Kristin Korbel, high school art teacher; Brandi Bomquist, paraprofessional at Tainter; and Kaylie Richter, assistant track coach at the middle school.

• Read a proclamation to observe Military Child Month in April.

• Approved a second reading of the Preliminary Staffing Report.

• Heard that seniors will be taking part in a community service day on April 27.

• Following closed session, voted to increase pay for the hourly support staff by 50 cents per hour for the 2022-2023 school year; voted to increase pay for the contracted staff work group by 3% for the 2022-2023 school year; and voted to increase pay for the teacher work group for the 2022-2023 school year with a 3% general increase, a 1.8% increase to bring staff to the average, an increase of $500 to the top of the BA scale, and an increase of $1,000 to the top of the MA scale.


Draft Images for Project

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