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Crookston School Board proposes new athletic and bus facilities

It wouldn't seem like $2.30 would buy very much. A few candy bars or two cans of pop. Certainly not a new athletic complex, gymnasium and bus garage.

It wouldn't seem like $2.30 would buy very much. A few candy bars or two cans of pop. Certainly not a new athletic complex, gymnasium and bus garage.

Or could it?

If approved next year, that's how much proposed renovations in Crookston Public Schools would cost taxpayers per week over a 15-year period. Supporters of the plan say $2.30 a week might be a lot easier for residents to swallow than the project's total $11 million price tag, and Principal Eric Bubna wants them to know the benefits would be well worth the cost.

"Many people in the community are calling it a 'no brainer' that we need a new bus garage," Bubna said. As WDAZ reported Wednesday, the 100-year-old garage has a leaky roof, wood separating from its top, and today's school buses simply have grown too large for the structure.

Bubna said the other proposed facilities, a new gymnasium and athletic complex at Crookston High School, would provide much-needed extra space. Currently, scheduling conflicts between different activities cause the school to bus kids elsewhere for athletic practices, and different grade levels have to travel to different schools for tournaments. With the gymnasium also playing host to community sports such as youth basketball, Bubna said gym space is "at a premium."

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"Having something that the school district can call their own versus sharing with other entities, we think (that) would be a benefit to the community and the school, so we're hoping those things pass as well," he said.

The athletic complex would include an artificial turf field with an encircling track. Bubna explained the artificial grass would create more flexibility for activities such as football and physical education classes during the wet Minnesota weather.

District Superintendent Chris Bates explained Crookston High School's expansion to include seventh and eighth grades has stretched the current athletic facilities to their limits - and he added the district doesn't expect significant drops in enrollment in coming years.

Bates said he hasn't heard from many people who oppose the projects' $11 million cost, but even so, he remains conscious of the fact taxpayers are not obligated to approve the new facilities. He said any school board always will have concerns they might ask for too much money.

"You've always got to be mindful that people are going to have to pay for this by choice," Bates said. "As we finalize the plans for all three projects, if there is an opportunity to keep the costs down, I would think that we might well take that opportunity."

The $2.30-per-week cost to pay for the new facilities over 15 years is based on taxation of a $200,000 home in Crookston. Bates hopes the breakdown gives residents a clear context for how much the projects personally will cost them if approved, saying he understands $11 million can sound like an outlandish amount.

"Such is the life of a superintendent, you get to talk in numbers that are really ridiculous," Bates said. "In street terms, this is five cans of pop, and pop is bad for you."

The Crookston School Board likely will put the projects before voters in February or March. Bates said the board plans to send out fliers explaining the costs. Each component is expected to cost about a third of the $11 million, he said, with the new gymnasium costing a slightly larger share. Each of the projects will be voted on separately.

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Bubna called the proposed facilities "tremendous assets" for the Crookston community and said current low interest rates will make for a large return on investment.

"Look at what you're getting for how little it's costing," he said. "That's something that we need to drive home for the 'yes' vote."

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