Hermantown Groups Go Head to Head over $48.9 Million School Proposal

By KBJR News 1

August 28, 2013 Updated Aug 28, 2013 at 10:10 PM CDT

Hermantown, MN (NNCNOW.com) - When looking at the infrastructure issues plaguing the Hermantown School District, you don't have to look further than the middle school.

Just walking into the school, you're hit with that tell–tale odor of wet and mold, and you don't have to look far to see these problems first hand.

"The heat system, the ventilation system; we have mold that drips down from the ceilings. We had a ceiling that collapsed; thank God there were no kids in that building," said Hermantown resident Natalie Peterson, sporting a yellow "Hawk Pride" t-shirt with "vote yes!" featured on the front.

Peterson is just one member of a growing community effort known as "Hawk Pride" that have been actively supporting the proposed $48.9 million long–range plan. Peterson says the planning process has been a massive community–backed effort from day one.

"We've had a lot of people on these committees that have a lot of professional expertise that they've brought forward to this plan," said Peterson, "and we're very proud of what the community did; there's a lot of passion behind this."

The group has sent flyers throughout the community, and even started a website to voice the reasons behind their support.

But another group of citizens, known as the Hermantown Citizens Acting for Responsible Education committee—or H CARE—is speaking out over what they call red flags over the plan.

H CARE co–chair Warren Berg says among the biggest concerns is the hiring of Johnson Controls Incorporated as the consultant over the first two phases of the project, which included data and public input gathering.

Johnson Controls is the same group that managed Duluth's controversial Red Plan.

"We wanted to make people aware that we're not forgetting that stuff," said Berg, "[with] that many so–called accusations going on, there's something wrong—there's something wrong there."

Those accusations were mailed to Hermantown residents, with the contact info of ISD #700 school board members.

Berg says H CARE supports the district, and would approve of what he calls reasonable renovations.

"People have said it should be torn down completely, we feel differently," added Berg. "We think that some more time, some more effort, has to be put forth to save that middle school."

"As a taxpayer, I don't want my money going into a building that's going to have to be taken down in the next 5 years," said Peterson.

Berg says H CARE wants Johnson Controls off the project altogether, "and another plan put forward by citizens that are really interested in this project."

"This has been a community project," said Peterson, "they saw the community work done."

The proposal still awaits approval by the Minnesota Department of Education.

The school board submitted the plan to the Minnesota Department of Education in mid–July, and a response is expected within 60 days.

To learn more about both sides of the issue from each group:

Hawk Pride Website

H CARE:

e-mail: hermantownCARE@gmail.com

Phone: (218) 729-0305

- Posted to the Web by Billy Wagness