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Mitchell Board of Education bid approval sets $10M Mitchell Tech diesel lab project in motion

Project expected to begin construction in spring 2023

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Deb Olson, center, president of the Mitchell Board of Education, speaks during the board meeting Monday, Nov. 14, at Mitchell Middle School. Also pictured are board members Brittni Flood and Shawn Ruml. The board approved bids for a $10 million construction project at Mitchell Technical College during the meeting.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Work will begin on a new Ag Power Diesel lab building at Mitchell Technical College this fall after the Mitchell Board of Education approved the bid for the $10 million project.

The move came by unanimous vote approval at the Monday, Nov. 14 meeting of the board.

“We’ve been working at this for some time,” Mark Wilson, president of Mitchell Technical College, told the board.

The project has been in the works for about five years. The school has been angling to construct a new Ag Power Diesel Lab building to better meet the needs of relevant programs. The project stalled for a time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since moved forward, with the bids for considering being the latest step taken toward making the project a reality.

Funding for the project, which is expected to cost around $10 million, came from a pair of sources. Half came from a national donation and the remaining $5 million came in the form of a grant from the state of South Dakota.

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With the board’s approval of the bids, which came in at an estimate of $9,756,969.97, construction could begin as early as spring of 2023. Bids were won by a number of different contractors who submitted the low bids for different aspects of the project. A full list of contractors can be found in the meeting agenda.

“We’re pretty excited about it. We believe that the completion date will be Dec. 15 of 2023,” Wilson said. “This has been an intense process. We truly believe we hit the mark and we are at the $10 million, if not under it.”

Increasing construction costs and other obstacles did present themselves, but officials worked to change the design to meet cost requirements while preserving the portions of the building that were needed to help benefit the relevant programs. Initial construction estimates for the project came in high, but constant review led the school to end up with a suitable design.

Mitchell Technical College Diesel Lab Design by inforumdocs on Scribd

“This was not without hiccups. We had to go back to the drawing board more than once. Preliminary estimates came in high,” Wilson said. “But we have more square feet than what we initially worked with, and by cleaning some areas up and restructuring some things it came to a better design when it was all said and done.”

The latest design of the building, which changed during the process from a partial two-story design to an entirely one-story design, boasts about 36,434 square feet, Wilson said, and should allow students better access to lab space to work on projects.

“We ended up getting more shop space, which is what we really needed. That way we can have labs open, get more students to have projects available and working on engines,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the new building will allow for expansion in student numbers in the programs involved with the building. About 100 students will likely be directly impacted by the new facilities, Wilson said.

Brittni Flood, a member of the board, said the new building should be a boon for the school, its programs and students.

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“It’s very exciting to have the space, not just for the diesel but the ag programs,” Flood said.

Deb Olson, chair of the Mitchell Board of Education, said the work done by Mitchell Technical College officials to make sure the new building meets student needs while also being watchful on cost has paid off.

“Seems like it’s been in the process for a long time. Our patience has paid off,” Olson said.

Though the proposal passed in committee, one lawmaker questioned why Mitchell Technical College was asking for $5 million when it hadn't yet exhausted all fundraising options.

Back to school protocols

The board approved return to school protocols for the second semester of the 2022-23 school year.

The protocols, which remain unchanged from the first semester, were approved on a unanimous vote by the board. The federal government requires that the board of education review the return to school protocols adopted by the school district on an ongoing basis. The federal government requires that schools have COVID-19 protocols in effect at this time, according to Graves.

New high school update

Graves also gave an update on the design and bid process of the proposed new high school building.

Graves said designers and construction managers on the proposed new high school project asked for a few weeks’ extension to tighten up the specifications for the new building to help secure the best prices for the bid process.

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Bids were originally expected to be presented at Monday night’s meeting, but the extra work will push that timeline back, presumably to the December meeting of the board.

“They determined that a concern was that the specs were not as tight as they would like them, (and) they would like a few more weeks. It will be brought to you at the December meeting. We’re just trying to get the very best prices we can,” Graves said.

Personnel

The board approved the following personnel moves:

  • The new classified hire of Angela Herrick, paraeducator at Mitchell High School, $13.75 and 7 hours daily, effective Nov. 14.
  • The new certified hire of McKenzie Mertens, assistant girls basketball coach, $3,937, effective 2022-23 school year.
  • The change in hours for Cody Jenkins, paraeducator at Mitchell High School, from 3.5 hours per day to 3 hours per day, effective 2022-23 school year.
  • The resignation of Deb Lunder, food service at Longfellow Elementary, effective Oct. 30 and Dawn Swenson, administrative assistant, effective Nov. 15.
  • The transfer of Amanda Klein, food service at Mitchell High School, to paraeducator at Mitchell Middle School, effective Oct. 24.
  • The Mitchell Technical College hire of Matt Bilden, commercial drivers license instructor, $40,327.78, effective Nov. 7.

Other business

Also at the meeting, the board:

  • Heard a report on the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce.
  • Approved a revision of board policy 1141, community use of facilities, on first reading.
  • Approved a revised comprehensive special education plan for the Mitchell School District for the 2022-23 school year.
  • Declared items surplus.
  • Heard board member reports.
  • Heard the superintendent report, including a brief review of the district report card.

The next meeting of the Mitchell Board of Education is set for Dec. 12 at Mitchell High School.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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