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Track seating setbacks at WFHS

Construction of a new set of visitors' bleachers at the West Fargo High School track likely will not be completed by the end of the regular varsity football season in October, officials said.

During Monday's school board meeting at the Leidel Education Center in West Fargo, an associate with MBN Engineering said it will take at least six weeks just to get the bleachers shipped by the time they are ordered. That means the earliest construction of the seating would be completed was Oct. 28, with final construction being complete by Nov. 4.

The Packers' last home football game is Oct. 19. State quarterfinals are Oct. 29, although it is too early to know if West Fargo will get to play on its home field.

Monday's meeting for the project was only to allow the district bid for contractors of the project, meaning construction will not even be able to begin until the end of August.

First brought to the school board's attention on July 11, the construction project was planned for a 500-seat bleacher system on the east side of the field, specifically for visitors. By Monday, however, there was an option to add an additional 250 seats, as well as the construction of a six-foot-wide sidewalk to and from them.

Business Manager Mark Lemer warned in July that for the bleachers to be completed by the football season, construction would need to begin immediately. However, with the six-week timetable for delivery, there is virtually no chance the seating will be done in time.

Originally estimated to cost $145,400, MBN Engineering now thinks it will cost a bit more than that, in large part because of concrete work.

After meeting with school administration, including coaches and Athletic Director Curt Jones, it was decided that a concrete sidewalk leading to the new bleachers was mandatory. The construction of the six-foot-wide sidewalk, which meets accessibility requirements the MBN official said, will cost an estimated $49,300. Additional concrete work for widening of current walkways as an alternate bid would cost nearly $17,000, he said.

The cost of the bleacher system itself would cost $81,700, the official said. Unlike the current bleachers, which are based on I-beam construction and are much more expensive, the visitor bleachers will be based on an angle-frame design. While they structurally will be adequate, the design is not open underneath and, thus, does not allow for additional storage if needed.

However, school staff figured out that if additional storage was needed, it would be cheaper to just build a storage shed compared to the additional cost of I-beam construction, Lemer said.

If an additional 250 seats would be sought to make the total capacity 750, that extra seating would cost an estimated $43,750.

If all bids and alternate bids were agreed upon, the total cost for all concrete work and seating construction could total more than $190,000.

That is, of course, if bids from contractors come in as estimated, Lemer said, and if the board decides to move forward with all the proposed construction elements.

The design of the bleachers does allow the addition of seating, the MBN Engineering official said, which means if the board decided to simply go with the main 500-seat capacity, an additional 250 seats could easily be added at a later time.

Current seating at the WFHS track holds approximately 1,800 to 2,000 spectators, Lemer said.

Bids should be in by the next regular meeting of the school board, which is slated for Aug. 22.

Levies down, percent up

Also Monday, Lemer explained how the bond referendum would affect local homeowners.

While a 2.98 percent increase in taxes is expected, the overall mills to be levied will decrease, he said.

When information on the referendum first came out, the district had said it would need 27.5 mills levied. However, Lemer said currently only about 25 mills are needed.

"Based on our information today, we are below the increase, and we will levy less than what we projected before the bond referendum," he said.