The Pine River-Backus school board began discussing options for responding to reports of noncompliance issued by the state of Minnesota pertaining to seating in the high school gymnasium and restroom facilities near the football fields.
The school was previously aware of noncompliance issues with the bleachers in the high school gym and had included it in the now failed bonding referendum. Even then the board acknowledged that the bleachers would need to be replaced whether or not the bond passed.
Board member Ryan Trumble prompted a discussion with the rest of the board on the options for resolving ADA compliance and safety issues with the existing bleachers, which are out of date. He said he felt it was important to take action sooner rather than later to avoid any liability.
The board briefly discussed whether or not to seek a bond to pay for bleacher replacement or whether to use an existing fund balance to pay for the replacement. Board member Dawn Rubner said if they used an existing fund balance, that would pretty much wipe out the balance. Several board members including Trumble, Dave Sheley, Chris Cunningham and Leslie Bouchonville spoke in favor of moving forward with replacement as soon as possible, however, a bonding referendum would push the project into 2021 at the soonest. In addition, the school would need to put the referendum to a vote during a presidential election or through a special election process, neither of which are recommended by the county.
Katy Botz suggested the board should research their options more to determine if there are temporary fixes that could be done in the meantime and to see if needed ceiling repairs, wall painting, door replacement and work on the floors could damage newly installed bleachers. If so, it might be wiser to do these jobs in a specific order.
More recently, the district was informed that there are not enough restrooms by the football fields and they lacked ADA accessibility. Currently, the district depends on portable toilets for football games, and they do not generally have enough to satisfy the state based on capacity of the field.
In May, before the referendum was defeated, the school had submitted plans for a new restroom facility including a men's restroom with four toilets, two urinals and two lavatories and a women's restroom with six toilets and two lavatories. Plans had also included two unisex restrooms with a toilet and sink. To be complaint while using portable toilets, the school will need somewhat comparable facilities. The school would also need a paved walkway leading to the portable toilets elevated high enough to allow access to the interior of the facilities.
Rubner suggested the district should order more portable toilets as a temporary solution. Superintendent Dave Endicott reminded the board that without a walkway, the district will still remain out of compliance.
The board is expected to discuss the topic with more information in January.