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833 task force pulls some athletic projects from top priority

A task force deciding what to do with $5 million in leftover referendum money pulled several projects off the top priority list at its Jan. 5 meeting.

Six athletics-related projects were deemed lower priority than before because the task force decided they didn't meet enough of the school board's guiding principles for using the money, which was left over from the 2006 referendum that funded construction of East Ridge High School.

Those projects include track improvements at Park High School, replacing the sound system in Wolfpack Stadium, press box renovations at Woodbury and Park and reimbursement for new wrestling floors to Park and Woodbury wrestling booster clubs. The removed projects total $245,750.

These projects don't meet principles such as advancing equal opportunities for all students, supporting learning objectives, contributing to a stable tax rate by reducing debt and being unable to be funded with other district tax levies, said Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for operations and task force facilitator.

That doesn't mean that the athletic-related projects are not worthy.

"I consider them important," Vogel said.

The proposal to build a shell onto the Cottage Grove Ice Arena for $150,000 for East Ridge High School boys' and girls' hockey team locker rooms was also on Vogel's initial list to lower in priority, however, the task force chose to keep that project on the top priority list.

Task Force Member Mary Schultz said the proposal meets the principle regarding equity in education because having hockey equipment in hallways opens the district to the risk of theft. The teams also don't get money from concessions to pay for locker rooms, she said.

The district built a shell for Park High School's hockey teams and booster clubs added furnishings.

The district has a three-year commitment for both East Ridge teams at the Cottage Grove arena, Vogel said. The district planned for one of the East Ridge teams to move to Bielenberg Sports Center when a third sheet of ice opens in 2013-2014. However, that plan has been delayed until at least 2015, he said.

Task force members agreed to put the proposal on the priority list as meeting three guidelines.

The school board is expected to make a decision on what to do with the money at the Jan. 21 regular meeting.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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