Verndale board takes baby steps toward referendum

/ 2 April 2012 / jennifer

Brian Hansel, Wadena Pioneer Journal, April 2, 2012

A referendum aimed at building a $2.5 million addition to the Verndale school could be in the future after the District 818 board voted to proceed Monday with preliminary plans suggested by representatives of R.A. Morton Construction.

The addition would include a performance gymnasium and classrooms. Verndale presently has two gyms on opposite ends of the school building. Both are dated. The main gym was constructed in 1965. Some members of the board have been considering a new gym for the last six months according to Verndale Superintendent Paul Brownlow.

The pre-referendum period would work toward gaining support for a referendum in August. If a referendum was passed, work on the addition would begin late next winter, according to Brownlow.

R.A. Morton president Preston Euerle and Business Development manager Becky Fulton outlined the process by which they have helped other school districts, most recently Fergus Falls and Rocori, mount successful pre-referendum campaigns.

R.A. Morton has found that a team concept works well. The team includes the district, architects and R.A. Morton.

“The program is catered around a community approach,” Euerle said.

A task force would be established to get input from the community and Euerle pointed out that the group should incorporate ideas from both sides of the referendum issue.

The St. Cloud firm can also market jobs to local contractors but what Euerle was proudest of was the firm’s good track record in pre-referendum work.

“We do focus on getting it right,” Euerle said.

R.A. Morton does not charge for its services if a referendum does not pass.

“They have an at-risk arrangement, which means we would pay for their services if the bond referendum passes,” Brownlow said. “If it does not pass, we do not owe them any money.”

Verndale has been one of the most successful local school districts in attracting students via open enrollment. Fifty-five percent of the school’s 465 students are open enrolled from other districts. At the beginning of the 2007 school year Verndale’s enrollment stood at 425. The school enrollment stood at 486 last December.

According to the 2010 census, the city of Verndale had 602 residents of which 32 percent were 19 years of age or less.