The City of Park Falls and the Chequamegon School District take pride in working under a very unusual cooperative umbrella to maintain and build a strong athletic complex for students and citizens.
Over the past few years there have been ambitious fundraising efforts to build a new ADA restroom facility at the Park Falls Athletic Complex. When those were completed there was another aggressive program to replace the substantially damaged an aging bleachers for the softball and hardball fields and to also make those stands ADA accessible. Those projects were completed last year.
Now, Chequamegon School District Administrator Mark Weddig has announced the finance committee has approved paying the balance of the cost of the football and track bleachers from the district funds.
Weddig stopped short at calling it a “loan” but noted that this second set of bleachers would replace those already paid for by the last round of fundraising and this next goal of $87,000 by funding a remaining $51,000 so the project may move ahead and be ready to welcome the football team and fans for the first game in the fall.
“We are confident that the balance of the funds will be raised and this ‘advance’ will allow that to get it done,” Weddig said. “The sooner this can be accomplished the better for the district and for the city.”
He went on to say that the football/track bleachers are in very bad condition and are probably a liability to the community.
“We want parents, grandparents, or any others who are disabled, to be able to get onto the new section and watch their kids participate in these sports,” he said. “We want to have a safe complex and we are sure that the PFACDC will be continuing to raise funds and we will be reimbursed by them.”
The city owns the field and the bulk of the fundraising efforts have been guided by Park Falls Common Council President Mike Mader.
In a report on other expenses, the district received one sealed bid for the purchase of a new bus for $103,000. The bus met all specifications required and will again be a vehicle run on propane. Finance director Lexi Witt said the new bus will be ready for 2020 and will be a 71-passenger vehicle.
In other business, Weddig said he only recently became aware that the district did not have an emergency sick leave bank.
“What that does is allow staff members to contribute up to two days per year, which goes into a bank and may be used by another staff member who is experiencing special circumstances requiring them to be off work for medical reasons,” Weddig said.
The “bank” will be monitored by Witt and a maximum of 200 days would be allowed to accumulate in the bank.
“If there is a staff member who has fallen on tough times this leave contributed by others can be a good way for others to lend a hand,” Weddig said. “There will always be some of our staff who have accumulated many days and are able to share those sick days with others who are struggling.”
He added that he has an attorney who will draft the language for the “bank” pro bono and the draft will come back for approval at the June meeting.
Weddig said he is encouraging the district to take part in an energy saving project via solar energy panels. He said he got the idea from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards convention, which later initiated the collecting of data to support the cost of and operation of the panels.
“I attended a presentation by the chamber of commerce and the Park Falls Area Community Development Corporation about Opportunity Zones,” he said. “As it happens, Park Falls is one of the very few Opportunity Zones in the Northwoods.”
The zones allow investors to invest in a zone project and then realize reduced capital gains taxes as well as reduced taxes on profits from their investments.
According to current energy use data and historic solar energy reception data, the investors could realize cash gained over the life of the 25-year project of $1,525,000. The carbon dioxide saved by the solar use would be around 14,000 tons.
“The energy savings to the district could be $75,000 average for 25 years which would total around $1,875,000,” Weddig said.
He noted that the Opportunity Zone lines are actually just outside the district property lines and so he is checking to see if there would be some way to work around the permitting.
In other news, the district has decided to switch the MAP testing that has been used for student assessments.
Weddig said the district will begin using “AIMSWEB” testing.
After a year of investigation, he said that it was found that it would decrease testing time by more than seven hours per year, which results in seven more learning hours.
“And it will bring about $4,000 costs savings per year and we hope it will convert the data gathered into something more meaningful to teachers,” he concluded.
This April meeting marked the first meeting for newly elected board member Ryan Kovarik.
Finally, for the fourth year in a row, the Park Falls Elementary School was recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Instruction as a Title I School of Recognition which identifies the school’s success in educating students from economically disadvantaged families.