MAPS to contract with Bray/Miron for facility study; cost projected to be $14,000
TINA L. SCOTT
In a special meeting of the Merrill Area Public Schools (MAPS) Board of Education (BOE) Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, the Board voted unanimously to contract with an outside firm to conduct a facility study of all MAPS facilities, in part to help decide the fate of the former Jefferson Elementary School building. The last such study was conducted in 2010 according to the Minutes of the BOE’s Dec. 14, 2022, HR/Finance Committee meeting. While internal assessments have been conducted since, an external facilities study would be done with an “unbiased eye” and consider all of the current MAPS buildings and facilities, including parking availability and needs, building improvements/maintenance needed at each facility, and the fact that the Merrill Adult Diploma Academy (MADA) currently rents space in Merrill’s City Hall, among other factors. The former Kids Kingdom building, central office building, Pine River School for Young Learners, and all currently owned MAPS buildings would be evaluated in reference to current and future MAPS needs, in addition to the Jefferson School building.
Three firms were invited to submit bids; however, one firm declined due to workload and availability, MAPS Superintendent Shannon Murray said. The two remaining firms, Miron and Findorff, both created proposals and did presentations, he said.
“There was a scoring rubric created that everyone completed and the scores were tallied,” Murray said. As a result, the team of Bray Architects and Miron Construction was selected, and the BOE unanimously voted to contract with them “to conduct a facility study to look at all of our facilities and how to make best use of all of them in the most efficient and effective manner.”
“This comprehensive study should provide clear direction regarding how we use all of our buildings in the future, including Jefferson Elementary,” Murray said.
In recent meetings, Facilities Committee members have agreed the cost of conducting such a study is a low investment that would help them and the BOE make decisions for the years to come. “We want the best decisions moving forward for the school district,” Facilities Committee Minutes said.
While it’s not all about the empty Jefferson School building on Merrill’s west side, which currently costs the district about $48,000 per year to maintain, and is currently used for storage, staff trainings, new teacher orientation sessions, and other occasional professional development activities where larger spaces are needed, the empty building is one of the factors driving the need for such a study.
“MAPS wants to understand how Jefferson fits into the larger facility needs of the district … It is important that the building isn’t sold only to find out it was needed, for example, five years from now,” Murray said in prior communications about the building.
“MAPS currently houses operations in district buildings that are exceeding, or have exceeded, their useful life, such as the Northern Achievement Center which is located in outdated buildings that were intended for a more temporary use,” he said. “In addition, the district also rents space from the City of Merrill to house the Merrill Adult Diploma Academy. These factors, as well as many others, need to be studied in order to ensure that the correct decision regarding Jefferson is made.”
The District won’t hold onto an empty building that isn’t being used for the long term, but Murray said it’s also important to consider the entire big picture prior to selling the property. Because, “When it’s gone, it’s gone,” Murray said.
“The cost of the study is projected to be $14,000,” he said.