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Kimball School District wrapping up renovations

KIMBALL -- The Kimball School District is wrapping up a $2.4 million renovation project this month on its school, finally closing the door on an earlier construction project that resulted in a court fight.

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Sheri Hardman, the district's superintendent, said there will be a public open house at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30 to show off the building's improvements and additions, which were partially funded by a $684,375 settlement received from arbitration with Swift Contractors, of Sioux Falls.

"It's unfortunate that our kids, staff and community had to go through this," Hardman said. "It was a big project and it was very stressful. It will be nice to have everything done."

The district started the construction of a new school in 2003, a project that was completed in two phases and cost $3 million. Swift built a multipurpose room addition during the second phase, which was completed in 2004.

Two years later, the room was showing signs of deterioration when the ground below it began settling. Large cracks in areas of the building were the most prominent problem. Hardman said the dirt work under the building was not up to code, and that is what caused the building to sink.

After Swift failed to recognize the problem, the district hired the Janklow Law Firm -- the firm of former governor and now-deceased Bill Janklow -- and filed a lawsuit in January 2010. Retired Judge Gene Paul Kean presided over the arbitration, which ran four days starting in April 2012 at the Minnehaha County Courthouse in Sioux Falls.

"When we filed the lawsuit, we didn't know what the problem was," Hardman said. "But after the arbitration process, we found out the compaction level was the problem."

In March of this year, the district started its reconstruction of the multipurpose room. It also added two classrooms, a new band room, a vocal room, a training room and renovated the bathrooms and preschool rooms. In total, 7,475 square feet of space was added to the building.

The school also replaced lighting in the main and auxiliary gymnasiums and replaced windows in the high school.

Beyond the money it received from the settlement, another $1.7 million was used to pay for renovations. Hardman said about $700,000 came from capital outlay funds and $1 million came from capital outlay certificates.

"We're not an extravagant school," Hardman said. "It's always need versus want here. But these were all things we felt we needed, not wanted. We thought since we had the architecture and construction manager here now, there would be a cost-saving factor."

The district hired Gil Haugan Construction as construction manager and Architecture Inc., both of Sioux Falls, as the architect. Before the open house, the district is going over a list with the construction manager and architect to make sure everything is properly up to code and correctly completed.