USD 410, Tabor to explore facility partnership

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Representatives from Unified School District 410 and Tabor College have formed a task force for the purpose of exploring a partnership for upgrading the football field and track at the college’s Reimer Field.

Superintendent Gordon Mohn told the USD 410 Board of Education at its regular Monday meeting that the task force had met for the first time earlier that day.

Mohn said both parties agreed that exploring a partnership between a public and private institution had the potential for both groups to be good stewards of the public’s money.

He said interest in upgrading the Reimer Field complex was part of a larger facilities review being conducted by Tabor.

While the running track, football field and dressing rooms are the primary focus of attention, related issues will need be to be considered, such as the parking area and the safety of passersby with the close proximity of the right-field fence along the adjacent baseball field.

The task force is comprised of three representatives from each entity: the chief administrator, activities director and a board member.

Representing USD 410 are Mohn, Max Heinrichs and Brent Barkman, respectively, while Larry Nikkel, Don Brubacher and Lyndon Vix represent Tabor College.

Mohn said the task force has agreed to start with a “clean slate” in regard to past experiences in working together, and as equal partners to begin with.

The task force also agreed to get input from their respective staffs and board members and other “internal and external advisers.”

Mohn said partnerships between public and private entities are unusual but not unheard of. The task force will be visiting two nearby models: one between McPherson College and the McPherson school system, and the other between Bethany College and the Smoky Valley school district, based in Lindsborg.

Mohn said he expects patrons to have questions about entering into a public-private partnership.

“Our public will and should scrutinize this,” he said. “We need to be able to show them how it could benefit all of the community.

“We need to be good stewards of our money and resources,” Mohn added. “It’s not good stewardship to go our separate ways.

“I feel good about it.”

Board vice president Rod Koons, who substituted for Barkman at Monday’s meeting of the task force, appealed to his fellow board members to publicly support the process.

“It’ll be great if we allow it to be,” he said. “We’re excited, Tabor’s excited. We need to be prepared to answer the public’s questions.”

Mohn, who was asked to lead the task force, said preliminary work should be completed this spring and then finalized this fall.

He added that until the task force is ready to make a recommendation to be acted upon by the respective boards, it would not be releasing updates about its work for public dissemination.

“Maybe we’ll decide it can’t be done together, but we’ll need to give reasons why it can’t,” Mohn said. “I think we can make it work.”

He said he hopes the process will provide a good model for a public and private entity can work together. But, he added, “If we try and fail, we’re also an example.

A complete report of Monday’s board meeting will appear in this week’s Free Press Extra, which will be on newsstands late Thursday afternoon.

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