Duluth School Board to address retaining wall at Congdon Park laterThe Duluth School Board approved the final major bid package for Congdon Park Elementary School and the Red Plan on Tuesday night, leaving the option of a retaining wall untouched for now.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
The Duluth School Board approved the final major bid package for Congdon Park Elementary School and the Red Plan on Tuesday night, leaving the option of a retaining wall untouched for now.
The retaining wall, which would allow for a third skating rink on the property, has been estimated to cost $250,000; the school project has a $559,000 contingency fund. When the board approved a site plan for the school last winter that reduced the number of rinks from three to two, it said it could add the retaining wall if there was enough money remaining in the project. On Tuesday, several board members were hopeful that as construction progressed, there would be.
“The constituents I have heard from wanted us to take our time on the retaining wall,” member Mary Cameron said. “It’s not part of the package we are voting on. We need to take time to figure out the costs. For those who are here from Congdon Park, I believe you will have your retaining wall one day.”
District administration recommended to the board approving three alternate bids that previously had been included in the base bid of the project. Those were a kindergarten addition, a chiller and skylights. Those initially were removed, said Superintendent Bill Gronseth, when the project estimate had the potential to be $1 million over budget. When that wasn’t the case, those items were added back. The retaining wall hasn’t been bid, and could be built in the summer, unlike a kindergarten addition, he said. He noted some sloping already is being done to increase recreation space by 35 feet. A retaining wall would add 25 feet toward Superior Street.
Both supporters of the elementary school and of the recreation space outside of it spoke before the board. The Congdon Park Hockey Club, which has maintained the rinks for decades, has worked for months to save the rinks and is raising money to replace the recreation building that was torn down to make the school entrance handicap accessible. Its president, Sara Vallie, who also has kids at Congdon Park, said she was there Tuesday to remind the board how important the outdoor space is to the community.
“I don’t want to lose the landscape that creates what the Congdon neighborhood is,” she said.
Congdon Park parent Sandy Bacon said educational space should be the biggest consideration, followed by extracurricular needs if extra money remains.
“Don’t lose focus on what’s most important, which are the students who attend Congdon Park Elementary School,” she said.
Parents also were concerned that there wasn’t enough playground equipment and space, and not enough communication from the district with parent groups.
Congdon Park parent Sue McClernon asked that some of the revenue from the three houses the district bought near the school that are no longer needed — and have been put back on the market — go toward the retaining wall.
“Please put sales of houses in Congdon contingencies,” she said.
Gronseth said he would meet with parents and community members about their concerns.
Board chairwoman Ann Wasson said it’s important that the district handles the retaining wall issue “in a timely fashion.”
“Our contingency money is not as great as I was hoping,” she said. “This is going to be more than a school district event. And we’re not putting it just on the community. I’m hoping the mayor comes back to the table because at one point he was there.”
“I want to do everything possible to build the wall,” member Tom Kasper said. “It’s important to the 530 students, but also to the hundreds of families that use it for recreation.”
The $250,000 estimate by Kraus Anderson for the retaining wall is based on a preliminary design, and could be more or less, said Kerry Leider, property and risk manager for the district. Other alternate items not recommended by administration for the school project included terrazzo tile and treads and tuckpointing.