Wauzeka-Steuben moves grant proposal forward for future electrical projects

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The Wauzeka-Steuben Board of Education lined up a myriad of items for their January agenda; everything from grant proposals, a co-op renewal and a report from the school’s media center held the board’s attention as the meeting marched into the evening hours.

In attendance were Thomas Martin, Clerk; Ken Buck, Vice President; Jessie Bird, Board Member; and Mara Hird, Treasurer. Dr. Gary Albrecht, Interim District Administrator; Tiffany Dums, School Principal; and Austin Bunders, Athletic Director, were also in attendance. Nikki Asleson, Board President, was absent from the meeting.


Grant Proposal

Mario Millonzi from Upper 90 returned to the school board with a grant proposal to help fund HVAC/electrical improvements to the Wauzeka-Steuben school building.

Millonzi read through the proposal, which he was composing collaboratively with Albrecht. The proposal stated the school district had completed electrical work, including maintenance, repairs and upgrades “as possible.” Some equipment replaced had been from the 1950’s.

The proposal noted all the necessary work could not be completed at once. Improvements under the proposal included new ventilation in classrooms and a 95 percent energy efficient boiler. In total, it was estimated there were 22 new pieces of equipment involved in the work listed on the proposal.

Millonzi said Wauzeka-Steuben has one of the lowest property value districts in the state of Wisconsin. Grant funding would be necessary to complete the projects listed without separating work out into smaller projects and bid out. The proposal suggested that process would likely increase the cost of projects for the district.

As part of the proposal the district put forth sustainability strategies, which included preventative maintenance work and service contracts for equipment. Martin noted the district’s Fund 46 would also be an example of sustainability for the projects.

“What would happen if we got down the road and had to pump the brakes?” Albrecht asked.

“I’ve never applied for this grant before… but, at least in the Public Service Commission ones, they have an agreement or contract that comes with it that states those terms,” Millonzi answered.

The board approved the submission of the $376,750 non-state grant proposal.


Library Report

Albrecht introduced an Action Plan for the Wauzeka-Steuben Library by Melissa Herek. Herek was not present at the board meeting.

The Plan outlined several areas where library and school staff have worked to improve the library in the last year. The document noted the creation of an innovative and welcoming environment in the Library Media Center had resulted in renewed interest among students. Herek cited circulation data that showed checkouts had doubled during the 2023-24 school year.

The library had gone through a weeding process to update its catalog and identify gaps in the center’s curriculum-supportive resources. Herek’s report stated the average age of the library’s materials had gone from 1999 to 2004.

Other initiatives that were completed included the implementation of more electronic reading devices and the installation of four workstations and two student checkouts.

On-going efforts in the Action Plan involved the promotion of public libraries, collaboration in inter-library loans and the Southwest Wisconsin Library System, community accessibility of the Library Media Center and the development of summer access for students and the community. These efforts had an expected completing date of May 2024.

“It’s the physical transformation of our library, which is a huge endeavor,” Albrecht said during the presentation.


Sports Co-op

Bunders requested the renewal of the wrestling co-op with Boscobel School District. He stated the program originally had six students from Wauzeka-Steuben. Currently, two high school students and three middle school students were competing in the co-op.

Bunders stated the program may gain one or two more students with in-coming transfers.

The board approved a two year renewal of the wrestling co-op with Boscobel.

Bunders stated the proposed middle school football co-op with Seneca needed changes to the contract to progress. He stated there were some minor language changes as well as a request from Seneca’s Board of Education to alter the safety guidelines.

“They wanted administrator’s approval to be a part of that process,” Bunders said. He also stated the current contract had coaches and athletic directors’ discretion for field safety conditions but not administration approval as part of the process.

Dums suggested a step-by-step procedure in the contract.

Bunders stated he would bring the contract to the board next month.


Other Business

-Millonzi renewed talks about a possible solar project for the school due to a release from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on how to navigate access to the tax credit. He stated the credit had to be applied for in the fiscal year the solar project would be completed. Payment would then be disbursed over multiple payments to the district thereafter. The board had no action.

-Albrecht stated a proposal would be prepared for the board in February for the Record Retention Policy. The policy was approved in December. Albrecht recommended the hiring of a consultant to manage work involved with the district’s record organization and procedures.

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