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Throwing the first dirt: Kids take part in HOTL groundbreaking ceremony

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Perham-Dent Schools Superintendent Mitch Anderson, board members Nate Rooney, Arnie Thompson, Sue Von Ruden, Cyndy Huber and Sue Huebsch, and Heart of the Lakes Elementary Principal Jennifer Hendrickson throw the ceremonial shovels of dirt signaling the start of additions at the school during a groundbreaking held Tuesday, June 14.2 / 2

Perham-Dent School District leaders, teachers, students and city officials were on hand Tuesday, June 14, for a the historic groundbreaking ceremony signaling the start of planned additions to Heart of the Lakes Elementary School, that will include additional classrooms, a gymnasium, and relocation of the preschool program to a wing built specifically for that age group. Also in attendance Tuesday were consultants and construction officials who will oversee the project.

Approximately 50 to 75 students, among the kids who will benefit from the construction project, were the first to throw dirt, as rain threatened to dampen the assembled audience.

Rain sprinkles began to fall as school officials took up the shovels discarded by the children and made official what the kids had started.

Given the official OK to move forward last week, Hammers Construction began moving in heavy equipment and installing safety fences around the school on Monday.

The school board approved Hammers Construction as general contractors for the HOTL project at its May meeting on Wednesday June 8.

According to District project manager ICS Consulting, Hammers came in with the low base bid of $6.3 million. Several alternate projects were also recommended as part of the construction project, which includes roof re-shingling at $260,000, wireless clock system for $13,350, and new corridor lighting for $8,160, adding up to $281,510.

Project manager ICS Consulting recommended the district enter into a contract with Hammers for a total bid amount of $6,572,510.

The district levied for the roofing project in 2012, however, with the building additions to the elementary school and the partial tearing apart of the roof to tie in the new roof with the present one, it was decided to hold off on the re-shingling project and incorporate it into the new construction.

As part of the bid process, potential contractors were required to submit a list of subcontractors. Hammers Construction will use a number of local and area subcontractors including: Fergus Drywall, I'll Tile and Stone, Detroit Lakes, JC Electric, Esser Plumbing and Heating and Compass Consultants, all of Perham, Ottertail Aggregate of Ottertail, MN Kota Concrete of Frazee, Johnson-Nelson Masonry of Ashby, Bjoran Construction of Vergas, Stelters Inc. and Herzog Roofing, both of Detroit Lakes, Fresh Look of Fergus Falls and RW Stucco of New York Mills.

Also bidding on the project was Nor-Son Inc., of Baxter, Comstock Construction of Fergus Falls and Hy-Tec Construction of Brainerd.

Last November, district voters approved a $45 million construction project to add classrooms and a gymnasium at Heart Of The Lakes Elementary School, make upgrades at Prairie Wind Middle School and build a new high school at the middle school. It also allows the preschool to relocate to the elementary school.

In other news, the school board also approved a property tax abatement for a housing project for Grow Perham, which has previously invested in several Perham housing projects.

At its May meeting, school board members failed to take action on the request, feeling they needed more information. During its work session at the end of May, the board heard about the history of housing projects in Perham, and why the abatement was requested.

The housing project is the result of the city receiving a $620,000 grant from the Department of Employment and Economic Development earlier this year, requiring a $310,000 match. Otter Tail County agreed to its share of the abatement, providing the city of Perham and the School District also approved participation.

Other school districts, including Battle Lake, Henning and Ashby in Otter Tail County, have participated in either a tax abatement program or a TIF district, said Mitch Anderson, so it isn't unheard of for a school district to participate in a tax abatement program. There is no additional tax increase for residents required, he said.

If the district had elected not to participate in the abatement program, the county wouldn't have participated, and the housing project would not have been built, according to Perham Economic Development Authority director Chuck Johnson.

"The housing project wouldn't have happened without the grant," he said at the board work session. "And it wouldn't happen without the abatement."