The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 4, 2012

Tennis courts among top school facility improvement projects

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — This time of year, everybody’s got a wish list, and area schools are no exception.

Included in a rather thick, 181-page five-year facility improvement plan packet for Mankato Area Public Schools, there are proposals for projects ranging from a few hundred dollars to $6 million.

But Supt. Sheri Allen and School Board members don’t work for Santa, so choices have to be made on what projects are top priority. And with those decisions made, the board held a public forum during Tuesday’s meeting to allow community members to offer input.

No one did. But East High School girls tennis coach John Romberg had a few comments to make earlier in the day. After all, new tennis courts at East and West made the cut for this year’s recommendations, and they’re a big ticket item at about $290,000. (But Allen said grants from the national and regional United States Tennis Association will take care of about 25 percent of the cost.)

“It definitely needed to move forward,” Romberg said. “It was long overdue.”

The seven courts at East have cracks, worn areas, dips and settling issues, he said. Dips in the surface made it difficult to squeegee dry after rain, so heavy puddling and dirt accumulation created issues for players’ footing and traction.

“One of the courts has significant sloping,” Romberg added. “It definitely has an affect on the play of the ball.”

The seven courts at West are in tough shape too, he said.

Jerry Kolander, director of business affairs for the district, said the five-year facility improvement plan outlines “new purchases,” such as building renovation projects, technology and textbooks, which comes to about $3.5 million for 2013-14, and is funded by capital fund revenue sources. The plan also outlines five-year deferred maintenance projects, such as blacktopping and handicapped accessibility, totaling about $1.9 million for 2013-14, and is funded by a deferred maintenance levy as well as reserve funds.

The biggest deferred maintenance ticket item is the $600,000 roof replacement at Franklin, Kolander said.

And then there are the proposals in the packet for “wish list” items, he said.

“There’s no way we can fund all of those projects (at once),” Kolander said.

Instead, the administration has to look at each facility’s needs and determine “what has real merit” and what fits into the budget, as well as make sure to spread the money around the district.

“And principals realize too they might have a wish list that is out of the realm (of possibility),” Kolander said.

Among the projects the School Board is expected to approve at the Dec. 17 meeting are: wall repair and drop ceiling installation in various areas of Franklin ($30,000); security camera upgrades at Lincoln ($16,000); and exterior door replacement at Monroe ($18,000), among various other things.

According to the timeline, project plans and bids will be accepted in January and February; the bids will be acted on by the board in April; and projects will be completed during the summer months of 2013 — meaning Romberg and other area tennis coaches could have new courts to play on by next fall.

Some other folks’ wish list items will just have to wait a while. Dakota Meadows Middle School won’t be getting its $6 million swimming pool just yet. East won’t be getting its $2 million locker room for the community pool. And West won’t be getting its $2.1 million cafeteria and commons area remodel.

There’s always next year. (Or maybe they can write to Santa.)