Immediate approval to replace aging stadium bleachers at Lakeland Union High School took a backseat to more comprehensive planning for the district’s financial capital improvement future, the LUHS School Board decided Monday evening. 

Treasurer Barry Seidel began the discussion with the question: Should a plan be established for fiscal expenditures in the next five to 10 years? Should the board start planning for a referendum or several referendums to cover fiscal expenditures? 

“Should we do this in an organized fashion? All together? An overall plan of what the faculty will look like in 10 years? Do we take care of this one lump fashion?” he questioned members.

The most immediate fiscal expenditure, Seidel indicated, was the stadium bleachers. An agenda item called for action and discussion on replacing them over the summer of 2019. 

Funds to cover bleacher replacement would come from the fund balance, either from its current $7.2 million balance or via collecting from a potential passed referendum, business/finance manager Greg Kopp noted.  

The issue with taking funds from the existing fund balance, Seidel said, would be reducing it too close “to the critical” point. With other capital improvement expenditures looming in future years — such as lighting and blacktop for the parking lot and restroom updates — a comprehensive plan may be in the board’s best interest, he indicated. All together, the upcoming capital improvements will likely estimate around a $3 million price tag. A referendum, or several, could help with that, Seidel said. 

“We’d hate to get to where we’re borrowing to cover cash flow,” he explained. 

The current stadium, inspected late last year, has around three or four years left, according to Dave Arnold, building and grounds supervisor. The pre-treated wood has rotted away and the structure now sits on the ground and is beginning to rust, he told the board. 

“The foundation is what we’re worried about,” Arnold said. 

An option to raise up the bleachers exists at a lower cost than full replacement, but at an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000 it would not be necessarily be “… money well spent,” Arnold said. 

Jeff Gracyalny, president of JW Industries of Green Bay, was on hand to give a short presentation on what the company would build, should they be hired for the bleacher project. The structure would be around 30 feet wide and 200 feet long, resulting in 5,000 to 6,000 square feet, he said, and sit on a concrete foundation. Gracyalny said if JW Industries was to get the new bleachers installed, they would need a start date of early spring, meaning a decision would need to be made as soon as possible. 

“April 1 gets you September 1,” he said. 

The 1,200-seat bleacher stadium would have about a 30-year life expectancy. There would be a press box and two areas for ticket-taking, but one side could be closed off for smaller events. There would be a water-tight option in stadium erection, meaning in the winter they could be enclosed and utilized for storage. Arnold noted this storage would be highly useful for the school as four garage bays were lost when remodeling took place for locker rooms. 

“Storage like this would be awesome,” Arnold observed. “You can’t have enough storage space for sports.”

‘I’d hate to see someone get hurt’

Gracyalny estimated costs around $415,000 to $430,000 with an additional $85,000 to $90,000 to add the storage option on the bleachers. The storage option could be added later, however, he said. 

“You can phase it in,” he observed. 

The current bleachers hold about 450 people on one side and 850 on another. 

“I’m frustrated … we are doing as we always do, which is putting the cart in front of the horse,” board member Shari Nimsgern said. She suggested hearing from other companies and their bids on building bleachers. “I’m frustrated being asked tonight to have an action.”

Member Barb Peck agreed. 

“In no way am I ready to make a decision tonight,” she said. “I really think we should look at a five-year project plan … referendums … and discuss that. All parts of that, not separate.” 

Board member Gary Smith said he was not taken aback by being asked to take action that evening, as the project went under discussion more than a year ago. 

“I know we talked about these things,” he said.

Arnold noted there was some urgency to replacing the bleachers due to pending safety issues as the years would go by. 

“I’d hate to see someone get hurt,” he said. 

Seidel noted it would not be unreasonable to wait another year, and examine referendum options and a “well-organized” plan in the meantime. 

“I think it’s irresponsible to vote and just do it without doing the research,” board member Emily Hallstrom said. 

Smith made a motion to approve JW Industries building the bleachers with the storage option, which was seconded by board member Jon Berg. 

“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right,” Smith said. 

Nimsgern questioned how the board could approve without knowing how to pay. Kopp said it would come from the $7.2 million fund balance. 

“Try to explain to the community why we’re not taking out half a million dollars (from that balance) for our students and community and non-community,” Berg said. 

“I have a problem taking it out of the fund balance,” Peck countered. “It’s not do we replace it, it’s how … next year we need the parking lot, the next year, lighting. It goes on and on. Why can’t we talk about this all together instead of doing it piecemeal?” 

Voting against the motion were Peck, Seidel, Nimsgern, Sarah Kemp and Hallstrom. For it were Smith, Ed Schaub and Berg. 

The motion was defeated. 

The matter is expected to be on next month’s agenda. 

Other business

In other business, the board: 

• Heard and approved personnel changes, including the acceptance of the resignation of Arnold Neubauer as head JV softball coach, effective Jan. 2; resignation of Rick Goff, track and field coach of 22 years; and Dave Arnold, building and grounds supervisor of 26 years effective May 1. Recommendations for hire included Clayton Klotz, Jr. for part-time hall monitor. He has 27 years of law enforcement experience and would be paid $11 per hour; as well as Sid Hunter as assistant baseball coach at a pay rate of 6 percent base salary. He is currently a teacher in Lac du Flambeau and is a volunteer assistant coach at LUHS. 

• Discussed the administrative leadership and management model, including consideration of possible administrative restructuring of positions and responsibilities.