Shirek: Board Unclear on Life Skills Center Progress
By Donnelly Clare
Some Members of the Stevens Point School Board say they are getting impatient waiting for final costs of the Life Skills Center- something the Board has been debated merits of for over a year.
School Superintendent Attila Weninger initially approached city leaders in January asking for permission to construct the 3,030 square- foot building facing Second St. North. At that time officials from Stevens Point worried the center was too close to existing taverns in the neighborhood, potentially violating state law. The building was relocated to a portion of land directly next to SPASH facing Northpoint Drive and now has city approval to move ahead with putting together bid packages with the new plans.
Board Member Kim Shirek on Monday told Weninger she thought the project should not move any further because no cost projections had agreed to. Almost half a million dollars of the construction cost is expected to be reimbursed through a Medicaid program, but Shirek said it was unfair for Weninger to ask the Board to agree to the project when it had no budget outline.
Shirek, along with Board Member Lisa Totten, has consistently said she supports the idea of the project but opposes moving forward until specific costs to the district are available.
“We’ve asked for this information several times since this whole thing began,” Shirek said, also requesting the issue be placed on a future agenda for further discussion.
Weninger said there aren’t any costs to give- yet.
The 3,030 square- foot building will provide an in-home setting where developmentally disabled students can learn independent living skills. Other space inside the center is being reserved for a Blue Light Café- where students can prepare meals for invited members of the community- as well as a space for Threads of Kindness.
“We won’t know the cost of the project until the bids come in; at that point the board makes a decision if it wasn’t to go forward, and if it does with which bidder,” Weninger said. “We will not have a cost until those bids come in.”
Weninger also pointed out he’d been pressed on the issue at past School Board meetings and had always given the same answer.
“I just want to make sure I’m clear on this: before this project moves any further, it will be in front of the board again?” Asked Shirek, who said she felt uncomfortable not being able to answer questions about long-range planning within the district, particularly a possible addition built on to SPASH. Shirek said the question has come up multiple times during meetings of the district’s Consolidated Task Force, which among other issues is looking at making the high school larger.
“I’ve been asked if the board would delay the Life Skills Center if we were going to make additions on to SPASH, and I couldn’t answer it. I just wanted to make sure before we break ground on this swampy land we’re building on that it’s going to come back,” she added.
Weninger said the task force was unlikely to have final recommendations on the SPASH building until June. If the Board wanted to wait for that recommendation, the Life Skills Center would take even longer than it already has, potentially putting the project at risk.
“It’s really strictly up to the Board- there isn’t a blade of grass that’s going to be cut or turned until the Board decides it wants to approve one of those bids,” he said.
Weninger said the district is currently in the process of assembling bid packets which then need to be approved by various departments in the city before they can be released to potential contract bidders. He said the district no longer has a timeline for the project.