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Brainerd School Board: District supports city in seeking safe routes grant

The Brainerd School Board lent its support to the city of Brainerd to seek another Safe Routes to School grant at its Monday meeting. Mark Ostgarden, Brainerd city planner, and Jesse Freihammer, assistant city engineer, presented maps showing whe...

The Brainerd School Board lent its support to the city of Brainerd to seek another Safe Routes to School grant at its Monday meeting.

Mark Ostgarden, Brainerd city planner, and Jesse Freihammer, assistant city engineer, presented maps showing where the city would like to expand sidewalks. The proposed expansions include a continuation of routes near Garfield Elementary to nearby parks along with new sidewalks near Lowell Elementary.

If Brainerd were selected for the grant, the funding from the state would not come until 2019. This time, the grant requires a local match of 20 percent along with 100 percent local coverage of engineering costs, meaning the city and other local entities would be responsible for covering $140,000 of the $420,000 project.

Ostgarden also asked the board to consider sharing the costs of the local match, although the board chose not to take any action at this time on the request.

School board member Sue Kern asked whether students at Garfield often use Memorial Park and Mill Park as part of the school day. If not, she asked why sidewalks to these parks would be included in the project.

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Ostgarden said that while the goal of the program is to provide safe walking routes to schools, the project is part of a greater strategy for the city of Brainerd to address neighborhood connectivity overall.

"What we can provide is connectivity in a neighborhood between schools and parks," he said. "A more neighborhood-wide network of sidewalks to support the neighborhood."

Steve Lund, director of business services, asked Freihammer to explain the reasoning behind leaving a portion of H Street which would connect to the sidewalks installed this year out of the proposal for additional sidewalks. Currently, once students cross Mill Avenue at H Street, there are three blocks without sidewalks before the network resumes.

Freihammer said the portion of H Street in question is part of the state aid road system and funding could come from that source to support sidewalk construction, should the city move ahead with resurfacing or reconstruction of that section.

The board approved supporting the grant application with a 5-1 vote. Kern voted against the motion.

In other business, the board:

Recognized the music department at Brainerd High School for its recent selection as a semifinalist as a GRAMMY Signature School. If selected as a finalist, the department will receive a grant between $1,000 and $10,000.

Approved a revision to the fiscal year 2015 budget.

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Approved the hiring of Jennifer Knutson, special education teacher at Riverside Elementary, and Michelle Anderson, educational assistant at Harrison Elementary.

Accepted the resignation of Natalie Goble, secretary on the south campus of Brainerd High School.

Accepted the retirement of Colleen Huseth, information systems specialist at the Washington Educational Services Building.

Accepted donations totaling $13,885. The gifts included $7,075 from the Brainerd Warrior Football Association to BHS for football coaches and $6,000 from 3M to BHS for robotics.

Heard a report from Reed Campbell, school board member, that the Brainerd Public Schools Foundation received a $10,000 donation from the late Brainerd city council member Bonnie Cumberland's estate.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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