Life Skills Center Back on Track
Left, Board Members Kim Shirek, Lisa Totten and Bob Larson discuss the Life Skills Center. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
The Stevens Point Area Public School District Monday night agreed to move forward with a new plan for a $500,000 Life Skills Center.
The center is being designed as a learning environment for developmentally disabled students, with space for students from the Alternative High School, The Blue Light Café and Threads of Kindness.
District officials tried to push the project forward in March but city leaders denied the construction request because it was too close to nearby taverns on North Second Street, forcing the district to rethink its plans for the building. Construction is now slated for a piece of land much closer to the SPASH building.
The board voted 6-3 to hire Wausau- based The Samuels Group at a cost of just over $45K to design the building and oversee construction of the center, but some Board Members objected to moving forward because they said they hadn’t seen the contract.
“I will say, when the board approves the expenditures, it’d be nice if we could stick with the plan,” Board Member Jeff Presley said. “But that being said, where’s the contract? I thought I was crystal clear from here on out that I would not vote for anything that didn’t have a contract. I think this is a great project, but I won’t vote for anything without a contract.”
Board Members were supplied with a memo from The Samuels Group outlining the company’s responsibilities, to include a site drawing, completion of architectural documents and construction management services. Tom Owens, director of business services for the district, said the memo was provided “in conjunction” with the a contract already given to the Board two weeks ago.
“No, we need to see the contract (tonight), not just a memo,” said Board Member Kim Shirek.
Shirek said the Board last year approved a much different vision for the Life Skills Center which consisted of a duplex home near SPASH to accommodate learning disabled students enrolled in independent living skills classes.
“Now, this is a bigger building than I would ever be able to afford. That isn’t the concept I approved a half and a half ago. I think we need to use our taxpayers’ money more wisely.” Kim Shirek “We shouldn’t be asked to vote for something without seeing a contract.”
Member Lisa Totten said she also worried how the project has evolved. Including a Threads of Kindness program- a program which provides clothing and shoes to needy families- is outside the purview of the schools district’s authority.
“I think that’s crossing a line- we have United Way and Salvation Army,” Totten said. “If we kept that mindset, pretty soon we’re going to be raising the children completely.”
Totten also said the project was moving forward without enough information provided to the Board. She said the board is still awaiting results of a facilities study on various buildings throughout the district, and that information could show there are other sites already constructed better suited for the center.
Thomas Owens, director of district business services, said the Board already approved the cost of the center when it approved the 2013-14 district budget.
“The Board has already been supplied a contract with The Samuels Group two weeks ago,” Owens said. “This memo was presented to the Board now as a summary.”
The site plan could come before the City Plan Commission in January.