EDITORIAL:Â Waiting on capital projects wise
Yes, it makes sense to hold off on a new wrestling facility and youth ballfields until more information can be obtained, but it also makes sense to wait given the change in leadership at Freeman Public that is now just weeks away.
The Freeman School Board last week agreed to put off taking action on number of capital improvement projects — a wrestling facility proposed to be built east of the elementary school gym and a youth ballfield complex that could be developed east of the school’s main parking lot (although it remains unclear what role, exactly, the district will play in that project).
Board members said they wanted to hold off until more information can be obtained, which makes sense. As board member Mark Miller said, “We could easily make a $50,000 mistake.”
Given this is taxpayer dollars at work, that is the responsible approach to take.
But it also makes sense to wait because the district is just a few weeks away from a significant change in leadership. Beginning next month, Jacob Tietje will step in as superintendent of the district — taking over for Kevin Kunz, who resigned earlier this year — and Emily Andersen and Doug McCune will replace Corey Gall and Mark Miller on the school board; neither Gall nor Miller chose to seek re-election.
Also this summer, Kalynn Juhnke will take over as the middle school/high school principal.
Given the significance of those personnel shifts and the input that new leadership will have on the district going forward, it’s logical to wait on a final decision about the wrestling facility and the youth ballfields until after they are in place.
As the leader of the district, Tietje, in particular, will undoubtedly have insight and guidance on what are both major capital expenses. The wrestling facility is estimated to cost around $500,000, and while the ballfields will need architectural guidance to determine their price tag, the cost of that project will likely be in that neighborhood.
This will be the first superintendent gig for Tietje, who is moving with his family to Freeman after spending most of his career at Fairmont (Minn.) Area Schools. But he has proven leadership skills that will no doubt help steer Freeman Public in the right direction. As principal at Fairmont he worked in development leadership, helped secure funds for an agricultural hydroponics lab and vocational equipment, and spearheaded a successful $6.73 million bond referendum for a vocational program expansion project.
“It will be fun to help the district and the community grow,” he told The Courier in April, shortly after signing the contract with Freeman Public.
That Tietje, the new board and Juhnke can and will take the next step together feels good, because together they will be dealing with whatever comes next. And whatever comes after that.
Make no mistake about it:
A new wrestling facility for the Marion-Freeman program is a no-brainer, especially considering the capital outlay funds are there to move forward with the project;
And the youth ballfields are badly needed in this community to match the robust Summer Rec Program that has been ongoing for years. The city has already gifted $150,000 toward the project and Freeman Public can and should play a critical role in the development of the project.
With two capable new school board members coming in and equally capable leadership stepping into administrative roles, the future looks mighty fine for a district oozing with potential.
It will be fun to see where this all goes.
Jeremy Waltner | Editor & Publisher