October 8, 2019 – Owatonna, MN: The Owatonna School District has identified an approximately 88-acre parcel of land suitable for a new high school, following an extensive review of land options done in partnership with city and county officials. Federated Insurance has signed a letter of intent with the landowner to purchase the land and donate it to the school district, if voters approve the November 5 ballot question requesting funding for a new high school.
According to Federated Insurance Chairman and CEO, Jeff Fetters, “Federated believes that a strong educational system with supportive facilities is at the heart of what drives a successful community. The quality of life in Owatonna is more important than ever, not just for Federated Insurance, but for the future of this community. As such, we’ve chosen to purchase and donate the land to the school district. If we can pass this referendum together, we believe the payoff for our citizens and the business community will be significant.”
After a narrow referendum defeat in May 2019 for a new high school (the vote was 49.5% yes to 50.5% no, a gap of 120 votes), school district officials spent the summer gathering community input to identify the reasons for the loss. Among other feedback, one question came up frequently: Where would a new high school be built?
“We worked hard to listen to our community, and identifying this land is one of our many responses,” said Owatonna Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Elstad. “We are incredibly grateful to Federated for offering to donate the land to us, if the November vote is successful. Their gift reduces the tax impact for our residents, which was another concern we heard.”
The land is located at 1945 SE 18th St, near the intersection of Highways 14 and 218 in the southern part of the community. The parcel rose to the top of other options that were explored based on criteria that city, county and school district planners used to assess available land including traffic flow, proximity to utilities and soil conditions.
“This is a good site for a high school in terms of soil conditions, existing infrastructure and the long term development plan for the city,” said Troy Klecker, Community Development Director- City of Owatonna. Klecker worked with school district staff, city engineer, county engineer and an independent engineer to review and assess various properties before settling on this parcel as the recommended location. If voters approve the referendum request for a new high school, Federated will finalize negotiations with the landowner and then gift the land to the school district. There will be no land deal if the referendum is not approved by voters.
The school district also responded to other questions and concerns it heard following the May loss:
Reduced the cost ($116M to $104M) and tax impact ($23/month to $16.17/month) for the new high school.
Added a second ballot question that would provide $8 million to renovate and repurpose the existing high school for district and/or community use. (Question 2 can only be approved if question 1 passes first.)
Had two different companies provide estimates to renovate the existing high school; the renovation costs were so close to building new that they were deemed impractical and not fiscally responsible.
Developed a conceptual site plan as well as examples of what learning spaces could look like; final designs would be developed with community input if the referendum passes.
Residents can learn more about the November 5 referendum requests by visiting www.owatonnaproud.org. Questions can be directed to 507.444.8650 or [email protected]