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Forest City School District plans to rebuild wind turbine, add solar array

On March 8, the Forest City School Board heard details of plans to almost completely rebuild the district’s aging wind generation turbine.

Dan Millard, school maintenance staff who works on and maintains the turbine, said it needs a new gearbox and generator. He noted that within the last year, some play has developed in the gearbox, which causes a need for periodic readjustments for sensors to work properly.

He said the gear box is a replacement from two years after the turbine was installed and that the generator is the original and the unit can be rebuilt. The condition of the blades is believed to be OK following a recent inspection. They could be inspected more closely when work on the wind turbine commences. The outside of the blades could be recoated.

School Superintendent Darwin Lehmann said that $150,000 is set aside in the budget that could be used for such a project. Millard said it was estimated that the gearbox would need to be addressed within fewer than five years now. The overall cost of any such project is anticipated to exceed $100,000.

Superintendent Lehmann also informed school board members that school staff held a good first meeting with architects and engineers to get its solar generation project started.

It was noted that ground cannot be broken on the project until after the site location is removed from CRP acres in September. The school board plans to discuss the solar project again at its April meeting. Contractors will still need to be approved.

Lehmann said that gauging by the number of contacts and phone calls already received, “there is a lot of interest in being involved in this project.”

The school board also approved a number of school improvement projects:

• $147,800 roofing update at the elementary school that is the last of a complete re-roof over about the past seven years

• $22,050 for restroom stalls in the district

• $347,231 for HVAC improvements at the high school

• $21,105 maximum for painting the middle school gym

• $52,424 for a high school wrestling room remodeling project. The wrestling room project will include new lighting and a new mat hoist, which will improve mat storage.

School board members also approved 2021-22 employee contracts with a March 15 issue date and April 5 return date. The negotiations resulted in all but six current employees being under contract for 2021-22 with options for all staff to remain with the district. Lehmann said he is optimistic about potential to have the entire staff in place again next year.

A 2021-22 negotiated salary and benefits summary shows base wages for certified staff will increase by $174,856 (3.29 percent) from 2020-21. Non-certified administration salary costs will increase by $32,026 (3.23 percent). Total general fund costs for costs associated with all staff will increase by $285,838 (2.65 percent).

As of March, the district has 99 certified, 85 non-certified, or 184 total staff with a vast majority being full-time employees.

In other business:

• The board set a 6:30 p.m. April 12 public hearing date for its 2021-22 annual budget.

Business manager Sara Meinders said that the overall levy rate proposed (11.10690) under an $18,849,225 total funds budget for fiscal year 2022 would be reduced from the current fiscal year (11.2764) by about 17 cents per thousand taxable valuation.

Meinders noted that the tax levy amount could be further reduced and adjusted down with passage of pending AEA legislation impacting the district budget.

• The board entered into agreements for a social worker and communications director. The social worker will be a shared position with Osage and West Fork that will work one day a week for the district, initially at the elementary school.

The communications director will be a shared position with Central Springs and will help the district with its crisis communications and communications strategies.