Mandan News

Wilfred Volesky: Purchase of land in Lakewood

Within the last few weeks the Mandan School Board has discussed the possibility of purchasing 24.5 acres of land in the Lakewood Area for the future site of an elementary school. In addition to the school board discussion there has also been considerable discussion by school patrons on whether this would be a wise purchase. I would like to share with you why I believe it is a good purchase.

As I relate to you why I believe the property at Lakewood would be a good purchase, you need to know that the school board made a decision at its July 5 board meeting on this purchase. This meeting will occur a day after I submit this article to the Mandan News and several days before this article will appear in print. I do not have the benefit of knowing the board’s decision on this purchase as I write this article.

First, I would like to let everyone know that the purchase of the Lakewood property does not mean that the next elementary school constructed in the Mandan School District would be at this location. In order to build an elementary school it would be necessary to have the patrons in the school district give their approval. Their approval would be in the form of a bond issue election which would be used to finance the construction of the elementary school. The location of the school would be just one factor considered by the patrons when they vote on a bond issue.

One reason for purchasing the property is that it is available now for a reasonable price. The school board could purchase the property at 48.2 cents per square foot plus $112,000 in future specials. This would make the total cost of the property about 56 cents per square foot. Just recently land in the Lakewood area across 40th Avenue S.E. and northeast of the school site sold for more than $1.50 a square foot plus the cost of all future specials. If the district were to purchase the property and then decide that the property does not fit into their future plans, the district should be able to sell the land and get a nice return on their investment.

We need to build elementary schools where the students live. There are a number of elementary students that live in the Lakewood, Marina Bay and Borden Harbor area. In addition, there is a great deal of construction occurring in this area, which should bring more students to this area especially if an elementary school were to be built. We have a number of families that live in the area that send their children to an elementary school in Bismarck. Many of these parents work in Bismarck and access to an elementary school in Bismarck is closer to where they live than an elementary school in the Mandan District. Many of these families would not return even if a Mandan Elementary School would be available. At the present time we do not have a Mandan Elementary School within a reasonable driving distance for these students.

The school board recently contracted to have nine soil borings and an environmental scan done on the Lakewood property. The purpose of the soil borings is to give the board an idea if the land is suitable for the construction of an elementary school. The environmental scan helps determine whether the property was at one time used for a purpose that could create future environmental concerns. The environmental scan did not reveal any problems with the construction of a school. The soil borings did show the need to do additional excavation to construct footings due to the soil structure. However, the additional excavation would probably be necessary in most locations throughout the city. Although some further testing would need to be done before an elementary school would be built, it appears the site being considered would be suitable for an elementary school.

The property being considered for purchase is located within easy access to I-94 and to both the Bismarck and Mandan communities. The access to the interstate translates into potential future growth and helps keep the resale value of the property high if the district were ever to decide to sell the property in the future. This makes the purchase a good investment.

When a person enters into a discussion about building an elementary school, the question that seems to always be asked is, “Doesn’t the school district own property in the northwest part of the city?” The answer to the question is yes, the school district does own about 28 acres of land in northwest Mandan. A school board, a number of years ago, looked ahead and felt it was necessary for the future growth of the district to purchase this land. Just as a school board years ago looked ahead and made an investment in property, the present school board should look to the future and purchase property where they believe a future elementary school should be located. The Lakewood area has a limited supply of land large enough to construct a school. Now may be the time to secure the property before the property is no longer available.

In spite of the reasons for purchasing the property I listed above, I do believe with the recent flooding conditions it is wise for the school district to postpone their decision for some time. At the present time we do not know what new regulations or requirements may develop in the area due to the flood. We also do not know if the recent flood will persuade some to move from the area or potential buyers to reconsider purchasing property in this area.

As time passes the answers to these questions will become much clearer thus enabling the school board to make a better decision in regards to purchasing the Lakewood property.