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Springs voters narrowly approve $3.5M bond for high school renovation

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WESSINGTON SPRINGS — The second time was the charm for the Wessington Springs School Board.

After voters narrowly denied a $4.5 million bond in November to overhaul the 100-year-old high school building, Wessington Springs School District voters on Tuesday approved a $3.5 million bond to complete the project.

Tuesday’s vote finished with 525 voting in favor and 324 against for a 61.8 percent approval rate.

“I’m excited for the school community and I hope now, with some of the tensions there have been, we can get beyond that and start working together again,” Wessington Springs School Board President Todd Grohs said moments after results were announced. “I’m excited to move forward.”  

To pass, the bond needed a “super majority” — 60 percent — of “yes” votes. The November bond vote received 59.12 percent approval. Had seven voters who opposed voted in favor, the project would have been approved in the November election.

The project at the high school will include HVAC, plumbing, electrical, bathrooms, flooring, windows, install an elevator and more. The school board will use roughly $1 million in capital outlay funds to complete the approximately $4.5 million project. Taxes are anticipated to increase approximately $0.37 per $1,000 of taxable valuation with the passing of the bond.

Originally, the school board considered building a new high school, but determined the current building has a sound structure and holds historic value in the community.

But the board decided a renovation project is needed.

The high school building has no central heating or air conditioning systems and the plumbing is 100 years old in some areas, prompting the beginning of project discussions in 2016. The high school also has an outdated electrical system and boiler system, and the handicap accessibility is “unreliable,” according to the school board.

The school board also anticipates renovating some classrooms and removing separating walls, but officials ensured voters that none of the walls in question are used to support the building. Any future projects at the high school would be funded through capital outlay.

“From here, we’ll work with the contractors, get the contracts ironed out, signed and move forward on the project,” Grohs said.  

Left off Tuesday’s ballot was a $1 million bond to partially fund the construction of a new auxiliary gym. The gym portion of the project was defeated in November’s vote 360 in favor and 390 opposed.

Grohs said he doesn’t anticipate revisiting the gym project any time soon.

“We have no intention at this point of revisiting that. The board hasn’t even talked about it, so it’s kind of history at this point,” Grohs said. “Right now, we’re just excited to provide this opportunity to the students and community.”