The Weyauwega-Fremont School Board voted 4-2 Monday, July 22, to match the W-F Booster Club’s donation of $400,000 to build a fitness center at the high school.
Debi Bartel, Doug Ehrenberg, Sandy Smith and Jim Stuebs voted in favor of it, while Dan Kohl and Neal Loehrke voted against it. Tony Beyer was absent.
Ehrenberg, the school board’s president, made the motion, which includes using $400,000 from the school district’s Fund 10 balance to match the booster club’s donation of $400,000 in cash and equipment.
The club raised $341,000 and received an equipment donation valued at $59,000.
The $341,000 includes a $130,000 loan through First National Bank.
Ehrenberg’s motion also included the following language: “The monies will be allocated at a later date to be determined by the School Board of W-F School District at a date no later than Dec. 31, 2013.
“This motion will follow the guidelines as written in the Memorandum of Understanding between the W-F School Board (district) and the W-F Booster Club.
“The W-F School District reserves the right to rescind the matching of $400,000 if the fitness center project exceeds $400,000, as does the W-F club.”
“It’s one thing to approve the memo of understanding. It’s another to commit funding,” Loehrke said before the board’s vote.
Greg Gill Sr., the district’s attorney, wrote the memo of undestanding.
“The purpose of this memorandum is only to facilitate further discussions between the Club and the Board in conjunction with the possible construction and funding for a Community Fitness Center to be located on School District property,” it states.
The memorandum outlines how that discussion will continue.
A committee will be established to explore the specifics related to the construction and funding of a center.
W-F District Administrator Scott Bleck will appoint the committee, subject to board approval.
The committee will consist of one or more members of the school board, one or more members of the booster club, the high/middle school principal, a district coach and/or physical education teacher and one or more major donors from the community.
The financial commitment both the district and booster club are considering is based on an anticipated expenditure that would not exceed $800,000.
The memo further states,”Assuming that the project is approved by the Board then in that event the project would be funded as follows: The Board would approve a contribution up to $400,000. The Club would approve a contribution likewise up to $400,000.
“It is recognized that of the Club’s $400,000 contribution, approximately $59,000 will consist of an in-kind contribution of equipment. It is further understood that the Club may borrow funds to fulfill its $400,000 commitment.
“However, in the event that the funds are borrowed by the Club, it is explicitly understood that neither the District nor any of the District’s property will be subjected to any obligations, liens, encumbrances and the like.
“The sole obligation to repay any loans that are taken out by the Club in conjuction with this project will remain the obligation of the Club and shall not in any manner become the obligation of the District.”
The memo of understanding between the district and club puts the construction plans, timing, hiring of a contractor and all related activities at the district’s sole discretion and approval.
Any cost overruns would not be assumed as obligations of the district unless the district approved them, and the booster club is also not agreeing to pay for any overruns unless it also approved them.
The Construction Committee will be established within the next 45 days, and it will be that committee’s responsibility to present plans to the board for input so the board is in the position to develop and review an agreement with the booster club and any contractors required to complete construction.
This is to be done by Dec. 31.
Loehrke questions club’s plan
The School Board spent almost an hour discussing the fitness center proposal Monday.
Loehrke began the discussion by making a motion to table it until the board’s Aug. 12 Committee of the Whole meeting.
“A couple weeks ago, there was a comment from the booster club – either do something by now, or we will send the money back. I don’t think we operate that way,” he said.
Loehrke was referring to the board’s July 8 committee meeting, when the club asked the board to decide by July 22 if it would match the club’s $400,000.
His wife Rachel was among the approximately 20 people in attendance at Monday evening’s meeting.
“They set the deadline. They didn’t meet it,” she said.
Last November, the board voted to contribute $400,000 toward the project if the booster club raised $400,000 by June 1.
The club did not raise that amount by June 1 and then asked the board for an additional six months to raise funds.
On June 24, the board voted to withdraw the motion it made in November, because the club had not raised $400,000 by June 1. The board told the club to bring a new plan before the board in July.
Loehrke’s motion to table the matter until the Aug. 12 committee meeting failed. He and Kohl voted in favor of it, while Bartel, Ehrenberg, Smith and Stuebs voted against it.
Tim Cullen, president of the booster club, said a fitness center at the high school has been recognized as a need by many people.
“It is a little bit of a slap in the face to say there is no community support for the project,” he said.
He said the club has tried to be respectful and to hear the opinions of others.
Loehrke said the club lost some of his respect two weeks ago when it said the board had to make a decision by tonight.
“You said, as a club, how can you take this money and have it sitting on the table,” Cullen said. “There was no six-month extension given. We were forced to do that.”
Ben Claassen, a member of the booster club, sees the memo of understanding between the board and club as a “good faith agreement that we’re on the same path moving forward together.”
Loehrke questioned how a loan can be considered cash on hand.
Smith said the Manawa School District received pledges for its project, with people having three years to pay them off.
After comments were made about the district’s priorities and how other departments fit into those priorities, Bartel said she, too, would like to see an expanded Drama Department and larger auditorium.
“I see this as the first step,” she said of the fitness center proposal.
Loehrke told the booster club he believes the district’s job is to educate students.
Claassen asked, “Where’s our PAC plan?”
Smith said, “I’m hoping some of this comes out in the strategic planning.”
The district is in the middle of that process.