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Bemidji Area Schools approves long-term maintenance plan

BEMIDJI—Bemidji Area Schools has a new ten-year plan to fix up its buildings.

School board members in July approved a long-term facilities and maintenance plan that aims to spend about $1.8 million each year, about $1.2 million of which comes from taxpayers in the district. The remaining $600,000 comes from the state.

So where does that money go? The largest expenses this coming school year are $600,000 for "roof systems," another $225,000 for mechanical systems, and $201,000 for environmental health and safety management, according to documents presented to school board members last month. District staff plan to spend about $410,000 annually on health and safety-minded projects like asbestos removal and fire safety. They can save up some of the money the district receives each year to spend on more expensive projects, if necessary.

District staff provided The Pioneer a list of 20 projects they hope to complete by 2020. Some of the more noticeable ones include:

• Resurface and restripe the Bemidji High School parking lot; replace light poles there; and add a sidewalk between the high school and the Bemidji Community Arena, which sits nearby and is set to add a second sheet of ice relatively soon.

• Resurface the BHS track and pool deck.

• Replace the Bemidji Middle School roof and repair or replace bleachers there.

• Add keyless entry systems to buildings districtwide.

"Some of these will be completed, some modified, some delayed and some new ones added," Chris Leinen, the district's director of business services, told the Pioneer. The school district has had a capital projects facilities maintenance plan in place for years, he told board members, and it's the basis for the "LTFM" plan board members approved last month.

The average age of Bemidji Area Schools' buildings is 30.95 years, according to school district staff, a figure that makes them relatively "young." Districts with older buildings can receive more long-term maintenance money from the state and local taxpayers.

The 10-year plan gets less specific the further it projects into the future. District leaders can, and presumably will, revise it every year as the district's facilities need change.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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