Life Skills Center Gets Green Light From City
Left, Superintendent Attila Weninger addresses the City Council Monday night to ask for a construction permit for the district’s Life Skills Center. (City-Times photo)
“Now this facility has taken on a more expanded use- it’s not just for a small segment of the population as people were led to believe. It’s for all students.” -Greg Nyen
By Brandi Makuski
After months of debate and revisions, the school district now has city approval to move ahead the plans for the Life Skills Center.
District leaders had approached the city in March of last year for a construction permit at a site on Second St. North, but the building’s proposed distance to neighboring taverns- which in one spot was closer than the 300 feet minimum required under state law- on Second St. gave city leaders pause. Superintendent Attila Weninger and other district leaders reworked their plans to meet city expectations and moved the building to Northpoint Drive.
The building has gone through changes since first being proposed to school board leaders. Initially proposed as a 4,000 square foot duplex- style home on Second Street designed for teaching living skills to disabled students at a cost of $400k, the plans morphed into a 3,000 square foot educational facility at a cost of $500,000. Today, district leaders say $525K has been earmarked for the building, which is now being referred to as one for “public use.”
“Initially this concept was brought forward for special education and alternative students, and almost everyone from time to time would say they supported the concept, but there was always a ‘but’,” said Greg Nyen, director of student services for the district. “I heard things such as the purpose is of the building unclear, it’s not Best Educational Practice, the cost is going to be more than you projected. Now this facility has taken on a more expanded use- it’s not just for a small segment of the population as people were led to believe. It’s for all students. It will be a public building and will be open the public for use.”
Those uses will include a living area for teaching living skills, a multipurpose room, the Blue Light Cafe, and space for volunteer opportunities and peer mentoring.
Alderman Mike Phillips said while he supported the project he worried about the impact on the tax base.
“I’m a little concerned why the sight wasn’t more thought through. As a taxpayer my taxes went up 6.4 percent last year,” he said.
Weninger said the continued cost of the building would be under the purview of the school board.
“We believe that the new facility that is smaller in size and location will come within those dollars,” he said.
“I supported the project, my concern was following state statute and not causing any adverse impact of the existing establishments,” said Alderman Mike Wiza. “Yeah, I think there are better locations but that’s not up to me it’s up to the school board. Whether or not they can afford it, again, that’s not up to me, that’s for the school board. Mine is the resolution, and I move approval.”