Archived Story

Voters clear: No go

Published 10:57am Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Frustration filled the room of waiting teachers, coaches and supporters at the Otter Tail County offices as the last polling station reported their results Tuesday night. Disappointed breaths were let out as the final outcome, 2,107 (55.35) no to 1,700 (44.65) yes, came in, with a total of 3,807 votes cast.

But with the same results now five months after the first referendum for updating and consolidating the school district’s outdoor facilities, voters have made their decision clear. After emotions settled, the room of educators and supporters understood that fact and what it means for the district’s future.

“You always have to be optimistic. Good things will come,” said school board chair Melanie Cole. “We advocate for kids, so we’re going to keep asking the community to make education a priority.”

While Cole was certainly hoping for a different outcome, she said voters’ wishes must be respected and the job of the school board now will be to work with residents to fix outdated facilities like the football bleacher system.

“It’s a project that still needs doing,” said Cole. “We’re going to continue communicating with the public and see if there is anything that needs adjustment with the plan.”

Because this specific proposal cannot be put forth by the board again this calendar year, there will be a significant amount of time before the issue can be sent directly to a public vote. Superintendent Jerry Ness said that time will be used to reevaluate what the district has asked for the past two bonds.

“We have time to reassess and I think the community has clearly spoken two times on the same project,” said Ness. “We just need to sit back and take our time, reassess our needs and exactly what needs to be done and how we can work things in our own budget.”

It is too early for the school board and district to tell exactly what factors caused the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, but Cole and Ness both understood the difficulty of asking residents to pay higher taxes, especially in hard economic times.

“It’s clearly the tax,” said Ness. “We know taxes are going up in different areas and times are still difficult. We have to recognize that and come back and address the needs we have and figure out what we can do different.”

  • misspriss

    The hockey rink fiasco was so polarizing to our community, I think it will be a long, long time before the voters begin to feel generous towards school enhancements again, especially when most of them seem to revolve around sports.
    We need to do more to aid our retired citizens and beautify the city, from the streets to the trees. How about finishing up the Lake Alice project,so walkers of all ages could enjoy it, and filling in some potholes, when the season is right? Thank you.

    • MichaelJ

      More aid for our retired citizens? Are you serious? That’s the last sector of this community that deserves any “aid”. You want aid for the the demographic most trying to keep this community in the nineteenth century? I’ve got it right here, it’s called a suitcase and a bus ticket west. They can collect government checks and whine somewhere else about how nothing was enough back when they were young. What are the “old folks” doing to help this community and it’s all important youth? And I mean that literally on a daily basis. Wow.

      • Richard Olson

        “whine somewhere else about how nothing was enough back when they were young” Really! So then you turn around and whine about bleachers not being “good enough” or the ground isn’t “firm enough” or the ice isn’t “big enough” or it’s too far to walk, the arena isn’t air conditioned, the locker rooms aren’t large enough, and the geese poop on my grass.

        And by the way you contemptuous little twit….those government checks some are collecting? It’s because we paid into the Social Security fund all of our work life and for some of us it’s because we were wounded in the service of our country. What have you done for your country other than to stand on the corner and yell how “important” you think you are. Pardon me if I don’t share your enthusiasm for yourself.

  • ombleueyes

    Well it was the correct vote for this project..getting railroaded twice is not going to happen.. be satisfied you have a new school, Pelican can’t even get that.. and oh my , I am sure the kids cant learn in a school that is not state of the art ,, correct? well they can and do. We need to spend on roads and lake alice and encourage more business to our town. Not chase them away with the high costs the city charge.

    • elbowgrease

      Bad decision to vote this down. In a few years, when the facilities start falling apart, even more, all those against this project will complain about the cost even more but will forget that they voted it down when it was a lot less expensive. Then what? Quit being so selfish.

    • MichaelJ

      New school? Who got a new school? Facts please. I know Fergus Falls didn’t. They got a hodge podge addition for sure. Linda you’re confusing us. In one sentence you’re railing on city projects that grow this area and the next you are talking about how the schools are too “state of the art” (whatever that means) to learn in. The schools and this facility vote don’t have a damn thing to do with the roads or Lake Alice. Capiche?

    • MichaelJ

      New school? Who got a new school? Facts please. I know Fergus Falls didn’t. They got a hodge podge addition for sure. Linda you’re confusing us. In one sentence you’re railing on city projects that grow this area and the next you are talking about how the schools are too “state of the art” (whatever that means) to learn in. The schools and this facility vote don’t have a thing to do with the roads or Lake Alice.

  • Mark Martenstone

    All this tells me is that there are 2,107 clueless people in this town.

  • P. Carlson

    When voters were asked for a new school, we were promised there would be no need for more new taxes for many years to come. Boy was that a lie, They had these things in mind and knew asking for everything at once would not pass. The school board already tried for more and had that turned down.
    Melanie Cole says they still need to ” fix outdated facilities like the football bleacher system.”
    Suggestion: 1) At the next football game, maybe all season if needed, ask for donations for new bleachers. If the fans feel they need new bleachers, they can fund them. 2) How about going to the local lumbar sellers, ( lumbar yard, home depot, fleet farm etc.) and asking for donations of lumbar and hardware? 3) Ask local builders to donate time to oversee building the bleachers. 4) Ask for able bodied members of the school district to come build the new bleachers at the designated time.

  • jensen55

    There are 2107 voters that are tired of MORE taxes!!! Pam Carlson has some good ideas,use them. If there is a need,I’m sure someone will figure out how to do it,TAXES aren’t always the answer.

    • citizen_blank

      Well clearly it was voted down.

      It made absolutely no sense to drive over pothole over pothole to go vote yesterday for a such a costly and ridiculous project such as this.

  • Richard Olson

    Here is an excellent example of “out of touch” officials…Melanie Cole; “We advocate for kids, so we’re going to keep asking the community to make education a priority.” Here is a shocker for you Ms. Cole, upgrading bleachers and moving the white lines on the ground is not making education a priority. Hiring a few mentors, buying new computers, buying additional advanced textbooks, these are a few things that make education a priority.

    Every time this school board/system come to the people for more money it is for sports equipment and/or facilities. None of which help students read better, speak better, calculate better nor do they teach history so future leaders don’t make the same stupid mistakes as in the past.

    The tax paying citizens of Fergus Falls have been lied to on several occasions during the debate on the new school and the ice palace, even going back to the Bigwood event center. Many people including myself said having those past projects shoved down our collective throats will leave a bad taste that may take a generation to remove. Few if anyone concerned with either white elephant would listen, they just plowed ahead ramming it through by hook or crook. So today some stand with their mouths agape wondering why it was turned down and dreaming of new ways to put more lipstick on this pig until it looks like a Mink that some fool will buy.

    That some still haven’t gotten the message is reinforced by arrogant out of touch comments like “All this tells me is that there are 2,107 clueless people in this town” There you go Mark, keep calling the voters “clueless”, they wouldn’t buy what you’re selling so they must be clueless. As unsophisticated as some are, they understand the difference between a baseball and a book, they know a bleacher is a place to sit and a science lab is a place to learn. They know moving the white boundary lines on a sports field won’t get them a better job upon graduation and future employers will not advance anyone because their high school bleachers were without slivers.

    It seems to me I recall some Amish people erecting new bleachers a short time ago in exchange for the old materials.

  • elbowgrease

    Not that I agree with all of the decisions of the school board, but sports are definitely an integral part of the learning process. Participation in sports help promote self confidence, team work, sportsmanship, decision making, social development and so on. The school did not intend to build the best facility possible. They wanted to make it more functional for students, athletes, fans, and the community and more appealing and available to host more events, which could bring in more money to the local businesses. It will have to be done eventually so why not now? Waiting will only cost more. If you have ever played on a high school sports team, this should make sense to you.

    • Richard Olson

      Maybe I missed something, is someone saying students can’t play games? Who said our student can’t take part in sporting events? Did someone prohibit sports?

      For myself, I’m tired of meeting self confident jocks who can’t read and write and are so socially developed they have developed a sense of entitlement that they think places them above the law. Decision making? You mean like “do we kick or receive”?, “should I run or wait”? Give me a break.

      And if local businesses are the one’s profiting from projects like this, let them pay for it. I suggest you physically go to area business people and ask them if they think they profit for these efforts and I mean businesses besides fast food joints with parking for busses.

      • MichaelJ

        Uh oh. Somebody got picked on in school.

        • J Mullins

          By a conceited jerk with a huge sense of entitlement to have others give him everything he can imagine wanting? Like, a version of yourself from the middle of the last century.

          Boo hoo, wah wah , sob sob. Michael didn’t get his way and now he is throwing a tantrum.

      • elbowgrease

        Dick, I thought you were in sports. Wasn’t there a book based on your track career? “See Dick Run”

        • Richard Olson

          Yes, but in my last race I stepped on a bleachers sliver and had to retire.

      • Frizzel

        Richard, there are days when what you write is so far from what I agree with that I want bop my monitor. Today however, I could not agree with you more nor write anything more intelligent than what you have put down. If someone thinks that new bleachers will make little Johnny a more productive member of society, then that someone received more than their fair share of concussions during games and should seek help. Schools DO need computers, science equipment and like you said, mentors. I’m waiting for the argument that sports is the only way some can go to college. Then I can call BS. Good Job Richard.

  • otterfan24

    what people are failing to see is that this isn’t just about sports. there are outdoor educational opportunities that come with this. it also provides much-needed outdoor space for gym classes at a school that now houses 6-8th grade along with the high school.

    fergus falls didn’t get a new school. we got an overpriced bandade to patch up an existing one. a new school would have lasted longer than a touch-up on an existing building.

    ramona, how much more do we need to do for retired citizens? 75% of the apartment complexes in town are senior living homes. i’m not trying to be cold or anything, but this isn’t a retirement community. there is more of a need to help the youth, so we can keep our city alive. elderly don’t do that.

    everyone who keeps voting no is self-centered and should be ashamed of themselves.

  • cyberdog

    I called Jerry Ness prior to the first referendum for the outdoor facilities. I made it clear that I was against it. He told me “You are obviously going to vote No so I don’t care about you”

    The majority of District residents voted No, therefor Jerry New does not care about what most of us want and do not want for out School District.

    I hope he will start listening to the people he does not care about.

  • Grayson

    WOW!!! The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is polarizing to a community not the construction of a multiuse facility. Lets keep catering to the past of Fergus Falls and not the future!!!!

    • Grayson

      We got a new school!!! When did that happen? I would call it an addition to the Middle School, but that’s just me!! The past administration just sat on their hands for many many many many years and did nothing to maintain and update the school and the facilities. Now the new administration wants to update and improve for the future of Fergus Falls. Why is this bad??

  • Grayson

    Free all day kindergarten is the way to go!! Fergus needs to keep all those kids in town. Higher student enrollment means more $$ from the state which means less out of pocket $$ for citizens. Pretty simple math really!

  • cyberdog

    Ness and his gang have become the Town Bozos. They need to move on to another town where they might be more successful in pushing their spending policies on the people to make a name for themselves like administrators from the past have done in District 544 before they went to another school district.

  • Grayson

    It makes my head hurt when I hear over and over people complain about the sales tax. What’s really funny is those who complain about it will not think twice about driving to Fargo and spending their money at Sam’s Club, West Acres, etc etc.. NEWS FLASH PEOPLE the sales tax you are paying up there go towards THE FARGO DOME. I’m sure the citizen of Fergus Falls use that everyday right!!! So, you have no problems supporting communities, just not your own.

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