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Pine City Elementary School Tour Shows Ailing Infrastructure

The Pine City School Board was taken on a tour of the elementary school Monday evening before their August meeting.

The building has parts that date back to the 1940s and has been in need of repairs and updates for many years, according to Director of Buildings and Grounds Scott Miller.

Miller along with Sam Christianson of Kraft Mechanical and Luke Anderson of Anderson Electric took the board and community members through the building, starting in the first-grade wing.

"This is actually the worst part of our building," Miller told the board. "I don't have a clue what to do. How much money do you spend to fix it, or do you fix it and move on?" Sam worked when they condemned Mora's (school building), and he said this building made that building "look like a palace."

Miller said the west end of the building has sunk two inches, which has caused issues with the drain that runs through that section. He said the sinking has caused a belly in the drain that needs to be snaked every few months to keep it flowing.

Built in 1962, the section of the school also suffered from regular waterline breaks and has asbestos in the ceiling. Thankfully, Miller says the asbestos is entombed so it's not considered a threat, but anytime there's a break, sections of it need to be removed so patches can be made.

Early Childhood was added to the first-grade wing in 2009; however, Miller mentioned that none of the bathrooms included in that section were designed for little kids.

"Are you serious," Board member Tim Geisler said in response. "Who was thinking that? It's called early childhood. Unbelievable."

Miller also noted that water leaks into classrooms and struggles with the school's air handlers as regular issues dealt with by staff.

Down the hall from where the tour started, Miller pointed out the multipurpose room.

"This multi was our 20-year fix 47 years ago."

He said it was built as a temporary structure with a 20-year life span so a proper gymnasium and a kitchen, but that construction was never done.

Luke Anderson of Anderson Electric voiced his struggles with the failing wiring in the kitchen.

"These are Frank Adams brand panels and equipment. I wasn't even born and I don't they were in business anymore. To try and get parts for this stuff is impossible."

Anderson and Miller said they regularly find shorted-out wiring after getting a complaint about smelling smoke in the kitchen's ceiling.

Fixing the issues pointed out by staff leads to another issue, compliance. Projects and costs will compound if they work to remodel the plumbing, electrical wiring, and fixtures. A couple of years ago Kraft Mechanical quoted the district around $1.2 million to replumb the building.

Miller said, "Let's say we do fix the plumbing. The next problem is we have to worry about wiring. They go together, and they're (the state) not going to let us tear in and start putting plumbing in without doing the wiring."

According to School Board Chair Dan Peterson, talks over the building’s condition began in the fall of 2019, but they were put on hold due to the pandemic. Because of the past year being "disruptive," he said they were not able to shift focus back to the building concerns.

Now that things are starting to normalize, Peterson says the board can resume discussions and put a plan in place for the next steps for the Pine City Elementary School building.

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