Take the suggestion and hire a pro to steer school building project

We’ve watched for several months as the Ely School Board has wrestled with, and really struggled with, plans for a major facilities project on campus.
There’s no doubt the board needs to take action to connect the district’s buildings and create more gymnasium space, and many other ideas floated during an already arduous process have merit.
We also believe that Ely area voters should and will support a project that’s overdue and needed.
Yet for whatever reason, moving forward has been painstakingly slow, and the board has essentially been stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels as key questions remain unanswered and key details are not yet in place.
That’s why we wholeheartedly support board member Tom Omerza’s suggestion this week to take action and get out of the mud.
Omerza, at Monday’s school board study session, suggested that the board go beyond the walls of ISD 696 and hire professional help to take the facilities project forward.
An engineer or architect’s help is clearly needed to provide some clarity and direction, to offer advice and to take the lead.
Sooner rather than later, the board needs the following:
• Preferably several options for many of the key initiatives talked about thus far, including an expanded small gymnasium, walkways between the various buildings, renovation of the old swimming pool area for a possible cafeteria/commons area and other components including enhanced outdoor, mulit-use athletic space.
• Cost estimates for one more more scenarios;
• Perhaps just as importantly as the cost estimates are the tax implications of each proposal. To make an informed decision, board members must know what the tax impact would be on any proposal they opt to pursue;
• A meeting with lawmakers and/or staff from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. Other districts have utilized IRRRB funding for school construction projects in the region, and there’s no reason why Ely should be left out in the cold if and when it pursues its own initiative.
Board members and administrators have done as much as they can on their own, and recent discussions have shown they need a nudge to move ahead.
That’s where a professional comes in.
The district does not have to reinvent the wheel.
Numerous firms and companies have worked on school projects, and Ely does not need to be married to one specific firm as of yet.
Let several come in, compete for the district’s attention and business, and show school board members what they can do to get out of the mud and back on smooth pavement.
And the sooner the better. While some have talked of a referendum in 2020, that pushes any improvements out, most likely, another year or two beyond that.
There’s no reason why Ely, like other districts, couldn’t put together a plan the next few months and have something to bring to district voters as soon as next spring.
The last successful bond referendum, which resulted in voter approval for the district’s heating plant, came in the spring of 2011.
There’s no reason Ely voters couldn’t approve something similar next year.