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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
Final levy to taxpayers decreases
By Lynda Berg Olds
In the Sept. 26 issue of the Enterprise Press, following the Annual Meeting of the Luck Board of Education, Superintendent Cory Hinkel was quoted, stating:
“Our proposed tax levy is down about $300,000 from 2018-2019 (from $3,280,701 to $2,965,318). And in the end, it is dropping our mil rate .97, or $97 per $100,000 (in assessed property value). We are going from 10.0576 mil rate to 9.0907 mil rate.”
Thus, the resolution followed that the proposed annual budget be accepted and the tax levy be set at $2,965,318.
However, the numbers given at the annual meeting are just projections as the final numbers from the state do not come out until mid-October. At Monday night's meeting of the Luck School Board, it was learned that equalized value went up more than projected. Thus, the mill rate is dropping from that 10.05 number to 8.938 – a bit more of a boon to taxpayers, who will now pay $89 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
The final tax levy and corresponding budget was approved by the board then, and went from $2,965,318 to $3,030,007 - so the total tax levy went up, but the mil rate went down, yielding a net savings to the taxpayer over last year of over $100 (for the school portion of property taxes).
October 31, 2019
Referendum content up in the air
By Lynda Berg Olds
Luck School hosted a Community Dinner prior to a Referendum Forum/Focus Group on Monday night. While a better turnout was hoped for, there was some good discussion. Superintendent Cory Hinkel said Tuesday morning, “I appreciate the people that showed up to voice their concerns and comments, but wish more people would show interest to help steer the decision-making process.”
Indeed he opened the meeting imploring, “We really do want to hear from you – what you want for our direction.”
Hinkel briefly gave an overview before turning the meeting over to Board of Education President Jacob Jensen. He noted they would discuss potential project areas and tax impact, which would be followed by the group discussion. He also introduced the school board members, who were all in attendance, as well as Luke Schultz, the facilities consultant from CESA 10, who has been working with the school board and administration helping them through the referendum process.
Jensen informed those gathered “how we got here.”
“We did a facilities audit in July of 2018 with the help of CESA 10. They went through our building with our facilities staff and their staff and identified a number of maintenance upgrades that need to occur. After that we developed a community survey and worked through that as a board – and went through the maintenance needs and identified priorities.
“Truly, I think it is important to note that through this process we pared down that initial list they brought to us and took away everything that we felt was not absolutely necessary. We took away anything we felt was fluff and that didn't directly impact our students...we only brought to referendum things that we thought were absolutely necessary for our district to survive. Oftentimes, school districts will present a large referendum first, shooting for the moon – and come back with a much smaller number – in the hopes that the community will pass that easily. We did not do that. We went to our voting public with absolutely what we needed.”
Jensen observed they then went through the whole ($9.5 million capital referendum) process, which failed last spring by a very narrow margin.
“What we have found through community surveys and discussion is there were some topics within the referendum that maybe caused it to fail – like the parking lot. Another one was the addition of the Wellness Center – and using green space for it, and the necessity, the actual need to address safety concerns. Those were the issues we found that were the hot button items that caused the referendum not to pass this past spring.”
One gentlemen wanted to know if all the board members and staff were 100 percent in favor of the whole referendum package.
Jensen said that at this particular moment they don't know what the package is.
“What does the school board want to see individually or as a whole?”
“We want to hear what the community is interested in and what their focus is,” replied Jensen.
Hinkel jumped in and said it ties in to what they need.
“We have deferred maintenance. The Elementary gym, the auditorium area, needs work. There's also that possibility of additional gym space. Is that something that was needed? One things that came out of this process was in the area of career and tech ed and improvements to our shop area with the possibility of hiring a shop teacher and really increasing that area into something that we can be truly proud of. We currently have a tech ed program that does fairly well but it is a 50/50 split and there is a lot of FFA stuff with it – and it is a lot for one person to handle. So what can we do to increase that [tech ed education]?”
Hinkel then went through the list of potential project areas, starting with exterior maintenance such as reseal/crack fill/patch parking lots and athletic tracks; concrete repair of sidewalks and tuckpointing.
Then came career and tech ed improvements including Family and Consumer Education (FACE) room renovations; tech ed and metals shop renovations and updating the greenhouse.
This was followed by a number of various classroom updates with items like moving from chalkboards to whiteboards, flexible seating, etc. The bathrooms also need to be brought up to ADA standards and the staff restroom to a unisex restroom. There were also other technology updates included as well as renovations to the locker rooms, weight room, district office, and concession stand.
Finally, came the Elementary Gym/Auditorium, which is in dire need of an updated stage floor, curtains, lights and gym floor.
Hinkel pointed out that last year there were 30 grads, with 26 of them going on to tech school, largely due to Dennis Frandsen who provided scholarships, but the point was tech school is being widely utilized.
“Those are all areas that have a potential impact of about $5.5 million. Then, if we look at other options – and these are things we really want input on from the community – going to a recurring referendum (in perpetuity) for $200,000. The point of that would be to be able to afford a tech ed teacher. Tech ed teachers are hard to find. There's six graduating this semester at Stout and I think another five in the spring. To get one of those teachers to run a successful shop program, you also need to have the equipment and supplies. There's a lot of things that go along with that. Also, with the recurring referendum is to address some safety concerns, with crossing guards, etc.”
Hinkel pointed out that when a referendum is for something in particular, monies can only be spent from it on said particulars.
So the next thing to address was the other $4.2 million option, which would bring the referendum up to $9.7 million.
“Then also the idea of that gym space. Adding that gym out on the end (towards the bus garage, more or less). Basically setting it there with two entrances and maybe a little lobby. Nothing over the top with that. So those are the areas that the board has been looking at. If we do that, the main thing people want to know is what is the tax impact.
“The mil rate last year was 10.05. This current year, it has dropped to 8.9 due to a number of factors including equalized value going up over three percent.”
Hinkel cautioned that individual taxes may look different say if their value went up substantially. He provided the following mill rates: It would be $9.56 for the $5.5 million referendum and $10.47 for the $9.7 million referendum. The $200,000 operational referendum would amount to an additional $0.58.
The discussion that followed was more or less all over the map. All input is perceived as good input insofar as to help provide direction to the school board on how the referendum questions should read. Only two referendum questions are allowed – and the lawyers write them with their legalese to conform with state statutes.
The school board is meeting (has met) on Nov. 13 to hash out what they got out of this community forum. The Enterprise Press will endeavor to sort it all out for next week's paper.
November 14, 2019
High hopes for $9.85 million referendum
By Lynda Berg Olds
On the heels of the Referendum Forum/Focus Group (and dinner) hosted for the Luck Community by the Luck School Board and administration on Nov. 11, the board met again directly after for a special meeting on Nov. 13. Superintendent Cory Hinkel, who had stressed to the board previously that he wanted to meet with them as soon as possible after the Forum while information and impressions were fresh on their minds, began the meeting.
“I made a guideline of questions that we need to address going forward. Do we want to go to referendum is the first question. And I have each of the three areas separated. We can start with deferred maintenance, then jump to the gym and then finally, the operational referendum – depending on what we want to do.
“There are some big things under those topics. I am assuming we are going to referendum and you all want to do something at least?”
This was met by a general chorus of agreement among the school board members.
“As we look at the deferred maintenance question and the scope of $5.5 million, from what we heard at the meeting the other night is there anything that we need to cut or add?”
Board member Rick Palmer observed that the number - $300,000 for the greenhouse – was no longer listed.
“The greenhouse was a huge amount,” Hinkel began. “That is something where we could just stay with the status quo.”
Palmer stated, “It came back to me that the only reason we want a greenhouse is so retired teachers can keep the flowers over winter.”
School Board member Sarah Cook noted that they had discussed cutting that $300,000 number down significantly.
“We cut it down to $300,000,” clarified Hinkel. “It was way higher,” he said. In addressing Palmer's remark, he stated, “That may have been the case three years ago. It is not the case anymore.”
“And that's what I told him, that I would ask tonight, but I'm sure it is not that,” Palmer said.
“Right now they are growing poinsettias in there to sell for the season – and there are Easter lilys in there and the school garden stuff. It is getting utilized way more. There may be a few house plants that people keep in there, but that's not the only thing in there.”
Palmer then shared that he was “100 percent on board” with all of the deferred maintenance that Hinkel and the board had talked about.
“So with the deferred maintenance – that is something we pretty much feel we need to go with.”
Again that statement was met with general assent.
The next big question was with regards to the gymnasium.
“I guess I liked what I heard the other night,” declared Palmer. “I thought it was very well supported...I would be much more of an advocate for that gym if we could also add the auditorium aspect in there.”
“I have that as part of one of those – for after we decide if we want a gym or not,” stated Hinkel, who then commented that in speaking with the CESA buildings facilitator, it was noted the voting public is in the 65+ category age-wise.
“And the farmers,” put in Palmer. “What a heard from a farmer in Laketown was, 'Why do we want to build something for those town kids.”
Palmer said he actually heard that comment from a few folks – that Laketown farmers don't want to build something for the town kids. “At that time farmland was being taxed at a pretty iffy rate.”
Hinkel wanted to know if that was because of the Wellness Center and Palmer said, “No, this was 15 years ago, but that is kind of the attitude of some of the Laketown people, is that, 'We're farmers and we're not going to support those town kids.' Laketown killed us last time.” [Meaning got the referendum defeated, which was by a very narrow margin of about 30 votes – mostly, evidently, from Laketown.]
“I tend to disagree a little bit,” stated board member Todd Roehm. “That was Luke's [Luke Schultz of CESA] perspective. There were a number of people at the Forum that I would say were 60ish years-old. And of those, there were a number of them that spoke...and I would say that more spoke up in favor than against [the referendum.] And we did these meetings to get an opinion from the public. If you had an opinion that was different than that, you should have been there that night to help.”
Board member Amy Dueholm observed that there were a couple of folks there that she thought were 'no' votes, but they did not speak up.
“That's not my fault,” Roehm lamented. “Here's where I'm at when it comes to whole gym thing and the auditorium. I am 100 percent in. I don't even need to really sit here and talk about it. I am 100 percent in on it and I think the auditorium should be a part of it. My opinion is we should decrease the greenhouse number and spend it on the auditorium. I think it would make a huge difference.”
Palmer stated, “I have exactly the same thought.”
Cook stated, “I think we still need to put quite a bit into the greenhouse. And I think the auditorium needs to be first and foremost. I actually talked to two families, who know of other families - if we actually have a performing arts center they would open enroll their kids from Frederic into Luck. So I think that needs to be a huge focus point.”
Palmer tended to agree. “I think enough of a focus point that it detracts from the gym a little bit.”
“Right,” Cook said.
“Here's my take,” Roehm began. “I don't know if what Sarah said is true, I'll be totally honest. I don't think there is a single kid who is going to open enroll here because we have a greenhouse.”
“No,” agreed Cook, “But an auditorium, totally.”
“That's what I'm saying,” Roehm stressed. “If we have to make a decision between the two, I'm spending $330,000 on an auditorium long before I spend $330,000 on a greenhouse.”
Palmer said he just doesn't understand spending so much money on a greenhouse.
“That greenhouse that is there cost $25,000.”
School Board President Jacob Jensen observed that if they spent [just] $100,000 on the greenhouse, they could improve it significantly.
Hinkel noted the auditorium seating is $300,000, so that may need to be a wash if you want to stay at $9.7 [million]. Or, you could go up to an even $10 million. Back to this though, so we do want a gym from what I am hearing - I have heard from three [of the five board members]. The gym is going to be included.”
“We had to change 15 people's mind last time,” stated Palmer. “And I bet we lost that many at least with the parking lot. At least.”
Bringing it back, Hinkel said, “Then, some things with the gym. Do we want to use the FEMA grant? Do we want to have that investment into the FEMA grant and handcuff ourselves into a dome structure? If we do a traditional structure it has to be built to a higher standard. It has to be able to withstand an E5 tornado.”
“Dueholm said she didn't think a dome would fly in Luck.
Jensen said, “Although it's a great idea, I'm afraid that the dome structure, and maybe my mind needs to be changed, but when I think of a dome structure I think of a white globe...maybe it could be blue and green...”
Hinkel said it would be over a 12-inch concrete wall dome, with windows and looking modern. But expressed concern that even with pictures out there for the public, it is hard to get past the perception, what people think when they hear 'dome.'
“I want to throw that out there as an option but I don't know. I think you might be right, that it might hinder, deter people from where we were.”
“Would a traditional structure cost $1.5 million more to make it, so then we wouldn't gain anything?” queried Jensen, getting to the crux of the matter.
“So then we wouldn't be gaining anything,” concurred Hinkel.
“Just to clarify,” began Roehm, “To do a normal-looking structure that meets the requirement of the FEMA grant, we believe it would add cost to the structure, but we don't know the amount?”
Hinkel said no, they don't know the amount. “But I would be very confident that if you are going to have your roof withstand an E5 tornado, you are going to have to put a little bit more money than what we currently have.”
“To do our due diligence, I think we should ask an architect what they think it would take to add to the building from a financial standpoint, to make it maybe meet the FEMA grant. I think we owe it to our public to say we tried,” said Roehm. “I'd like to know.”
Palmer concurred and added, “One thing we haven't explored that usually helps sell something is energy efficiency like solar power. Have we thought at all yet, if we do build a regular gym structure, about maybe putting up solar panels on the roof? I am saying that helps sell projects sometimes if you can say the solar power will generate x, y, z efficiencies. It is something to think about. We didn't have any trouble with our other energy projects here...you were talking about due diligence Todd...”
Roehm did think it is proper to do the due diligence, noting much has been done already, but said, “I agree, I don't think you put a dome off of a square building – and people are going be like, 'Well that looks awesome [not].'”
Jensen noted there will be pretty good southern exposure in the building itself.
Board members agreed that it has to be two courts in the gym. Jensen wasn't too keen that the football team, which was headed to State at that time, didn't have a place to practice as the gym times are so booked up.
Hinkel wasted no time and went and made a call about the FEMA grant and he came back and said it could also be used for the locker rooms, which could be added more easily by the architects, depending on if the grant was received.
“We could use that grant money for is to make things tornado-proof, compatible for the grant. So you could have your lobby and locker room areas built to that standard. You could add additional space with that money. It may be where our drawings are with the gym the way we want, but then also if we get the grant money, we are adding on locker rooms on the back side.”
“So the gym doesn't necessarily have to be tornado-proof?” asked Dueholm.
“Just something within the scope, we could use it for whatever. It probably would not be cost-effective to remodel something, we would be better off just building it to spec right away.”
Discussion ensued about the locker rooms and different configurations and the board agreed that minimal is better with the priority rather on more classroom space.
High School Principal Brad Werner noted that basketball teams use the locker rooms, while volleyball girls use the bathroom.
“I don't pretend to understand,” he said.
The board members became animated with various possibility-thinking and much free-form discussion took place.
With the new gym it was decided they don't need a lot of seating, just a place to practice and play.
“Alright,” said Hinkel, “two courts, minimal seating, enough though, we have to have enough for JV. Enough, but nothing fancy. As for lobbies and locker rooms, that may be contingent on the grant as an addition. So we will tell the architects, we want that to be something that if we don't get the grant, it is easily not part of it. So I don't know how that looks but we can have the architects work on that. There is going to be a small lobby no matter what and we are going to have access to that gym from both exits so you can come in from both ends – but I wonder do we plan on those locker rooms getting remodeled no matter what in case it [the grant] doesn't happen.”
Jensen said, “Another thing we could do is if we get locker rooms, then all of a sudden we just blow the walls out of those areas, fill in the plumbing and that becomes your weight room. Then we gain three classrooms here in the center of our building.”
“Saving the space for classrooms makes more sense from a public, logical perspective,” said Roehm, adding, “Maybe we leave the locker rooms in the scope of the $5.5 million referendum and we do a locker room that is tornado sound.”
“From what I heard earlier, the auditorium seating needs to happen if we are going to do the gym,” stated Hinkel.
Nods all around.
“Now do you want us to look at the greenhouse or different areas? Keep it at $9.7 million? Are you comfortable going up to $10 million if need be? I will get some more exact numbers.”
“Do we want to do the operational referendum?” asked Hinkel.
Again, yes all around. It is about safety and tech ed primarily.
Hinkel added a word of caution. “You heard that people still thought we were doing a walking track the last go round. When you add a second question, it muddles people's minds. I heard people thought they could not vote yes on both. They thought it was either/or – and they vote for the lesser one because of that. Secondly, we only get two [referendum] questions per year. We are in a presidential election year, so we can go in November for the operational referendum. If we use them both, then we are sitting back at this table waiting until April.”
Roehm said he was a firm believer of asking one question, getting the [tech] site ready to go, and then filling the seats.
“I don't agree,” stated Jensen. “I don't think we can get the site ready with the current staff we have in place. I don't think we can create the program. I think we have a lot of what we need already in place to start building that program – and that just pushes it out in terms of becoming effective. This work isn't going to happen until 2022. Then you wait a year after that...”
The conversation swirled after that as to what indeed would be the best thing to do. One question or two?
Palmer said he would not want an architect to tell them what their tech ed program was going to look like.
“I think I would want input from the teacher and a whole lot of other people before I start re-doing the space and then try to hire somebody to fit the program, instead of building the program around someone you've got.”
Palmer was in favor of having both questions on the referendum.
Jensen said the only way he would support asking just the one question, is if they figure out a way to say, “We are coming back in November for $200,000. One-hundred percent that we are coming back at that time. I want to see this happen. To me, it is more important, well, the gym is important I think, but that, and putting that together and getting a potential charter school together, is more impactful for our district and our school than any of this other stuff.”
“We also want to show Mr. Frandsen commitment on our part,” stated Palmer.
“I want us to have a clear vision going forward.,” stated Hinkel. “I don't understand how people don't understand the voting process.”
Jensen conceded it was more than once that it came up that people were confused by the ballot, so he decided he was okay with just the one question.
“We will publicly announce that we are coming back in November,” stated Jensen. Those were his terms and the board concurred.
“I am looking for direction from you guys and I will do whatever you want me to do,” stated Hinkel. “I will be there. I want to be deliberate about the process.”
So one question it is for the spring ballot, which requires legal services to comply with state law. At the end of this meeting the number was $5.5 million in deferred maintenance and $4.2 million for the gym.
The mil (tax) rate last year was 10.05. This current year, it has dropped to 8.9 due to a number of factors, including equalized value going up over three percent. For the $9.7 million referendum the mil rate will be $10.47.
However, by the “regular” school board meeting on Nov. 18, it came to pass that the exact cost of the telescopic bleachers for the auditorium came in higher than anticipated, bringing the total referendum question to $9.85 million, at the minimal additional expense of about $3 per year for taxpayers per $100,000 of assessed value.
November 27, 2019
Superintendent addresses school district members
By Lynda Berg Olds
Luck School District's Superintendent, Cory Hinkel, recently shared some thoughts with the Ledger/Enterprise Press, that he wanted to pass along to the greater Luck community school district members. What follows, in italics, are his words exactly, in their entirety:
“As you may be aware, the district passed a $300,000 operational referendum last April. We thank you for the support of our education system. The building referendum failed by a slim margin. Unfortunately, our building needs have not gone away since the last vote, and the cost of materials and labor continues to rise.
“Since the election, the board has carefully reviewed the district's strategic plan to determine the best way to meet the ever-changing needs of our students. A focus group was held with the public to garner input on the best direction to move forward. An online survey was also disseminated to gauge why community members voted the way they did in April. The board has continued to discuss referendum options and community feedback during both regular and special monthly meetings.
“The board will review all the information it's received over the past eight months and take official action at the December board meeting. More information and details will be released following that meeting. Please know, the board is taking this process very seriously to provide the best learning environment possible for students of the district.”
This earnest memo is signed: “Yours in Education, Cory Hinkel, District Administrator, School District of Luck.”
It should be noted that the aforementioned December meeting takes place this coming Wednesday to accommodate the Christmas Tea. The Dec. 18 meeting will be in the boardroom at the school at 2 p.m. (The Luck School Board regularly meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the month.)
Of significant import on the agenda then, first, is the initial resolution authorizing general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $9,850,000. Next: “Resolution providing for a referendum election on the question of the approval of an initial resolution authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $9,850,000.”
The referendum language is not deliberately obtuse, but rather a product of the legal system.
December 12, 2019
Northland Ambulance superstar retires as manager
By Lynda Berg Olds
Luck Trustee Mike Miller was first to the floor at Wednesday night's meeting of the Luck Village Board – with a special mission – to recognize Rae Ann Allen for her years of service as Manager of Northland Ambulance. She will continue on as an EMT (and also do coding and billing in her 'spare' time).
“Unfortunately for Northland, Rae has decided to leave us,” Miller began (with a catch in his throat), “but we wanted to show her how much we appreciate her. Thank you so much for your years of service.”
It was an emotional moment – and applause was sustained as Miller presented Allen with a Certificate of Appreciation “For Being an Outstanding Professional – We couldn't have done it without you. Thank you for your years of service.”
It was signed by Miller, as President of Northland Ambulance Service. It should be noted that Allen has been with Northland for some 28 years, and manager for 15 years. Luck Police Chief Monty Tretsven, who has worked closely with Allen since way back when, decided to share a photo he had of the ambulance crew, from when he and Allen were about 20 years old. It got passed around and nostalgia filled the room. Spirits were high, it's Christmas after all and the Village Hall was festively decorated.
Next up to bat was Tourism Director Sherrie Johnson, who said she would just give a quick update as a meeting of the Tourism Commission is coming up Jan. 6 (after which she would have more to share).
She gave a brief summary of the surveys she distributed and received back.
“But I really would like for the Commission to go over it in more detail and come up with some game plans that we want to go forward with. The overwhelming thing that we saw – that people thought about our town, that they were proud of and like about it – is the friendly, small town atmosphere.
“So we want to keep it a small town, but we can still grow. So that is the theme I think we will be leaning toward – and then really capitalizing on the name Luck.”
Johnson said they got a lot of good feedback, but one negative part was that 60 percent of the respondents were concerned that “what Luck would look like in five years” would be either a more depleted downtown, or that it would look the same.
“So 40 percent were hopeful that it was either growing or we could improve our Main Street. They did make comments about the improved Main Street and were happy to see that the streets were redone and the light poles and sidewalks, that's a real plus, but as far as the storefronts – not a lot of hope. So maybe, with the help of the Tourism Commission and the village board, get a little hope in the village.”
Johnson also noted that she is working with the school art class to come up with some ideas to beautify the empty buildings.
“We can put pictures of old Luck – what it used to look like when it was booming. They have banners and said they would do that and then we can maybe get the Community Club, the Big Butternut Lake Association and the Luck Lions to donate money to the school to help us do that.”
Johnson noted later that another area in which Luck residents were particularly pleased, was with the fire, police and ambulance service. She made a point of directing this last to Rae Ann.
In other business, election workers were approved for the five elections next year. They include Sandy Madsen, Susan Gilhoi, Judy Giller, Kathy Hanson and Wilma Holdt. A comment was made indicating this is a pretty solid group who has worked together for a number of years.
Chief Tretsven was asked to address the next item on the agenda – the hiring of a full-time officer – Chris Olsen.
“I have actually been pushing to hire someone full-time for a few years because there is a part-time police officer shortage. In the meantime, the school superintendent asked if we would be interested in partnering with them to provide additional hours at the school. So we worked out a deal, with Mike's help (Trustee Mike Broten) and we met with Mr. Hinkel and came to an agreement for a certain number of hours during the day and also some additional sporting coverage. (Of note, the school was particularly concerned with arrival and departure times.)
“They are basically going to pay for the daytime stuff and we agreed that we would provide additional coverage for the after school sporting events as well. It won't actually cost the village much to add police hours because we will use our part-time budget we had before and with the school's portion it will just about be a wash. So we will be able to hire Chris full-time and hopefully, with these additional hours, we will be able to have better afternoon and evening coverage, which will benefit the village and the school. I am actually kind of excited about it.”
Trustees quickly and unanimously approved the hire and the win/win situation.
Public Works Director Seth Petersen was asked to discuss the issue of approving contractor Don Clarke to do the interior remodel for the Village Hall. He said he couldn't speak for Don, except to say he highly recommends him – and then gave a run down on the work to be done.
“Pretty much all the carpet will be replaced; new blinds/window treatments; closet will go away and turn into a wall with windows; there will be a security-type vestibule with transaction windows built-in; and then a secure door that will be connected to a buzzer to allow somebody inside the actual office area; the entire building inside will be painted – and this includes all brand new ceilings and everything. It didn't cost very much more. The bid also includes all brand new lighting with LED lights replaced throughout the entire building – and that's most of it in a nutshell. It is a pretty big facelift and a fairly significant change in the transaction area. Plus, the men's bathroom turns into a unisex, complete ADA accessible bathroom.”
Petersen also discussed a separate issue with some water damage that Clarke will also take care of, and he said Don was available by phone if there are any questions.
Miller asked about a potential start date and Petersen said Clarke and his team are ready to go. Petersen noted Clarke would be happy to have the winter work – in town, and the board was also happy to keep it local – so again, win/win, with the job awarded to Clarke. Petersen said Clarke was also willing to work with the board should they decide to do some painting or something themselves.
The timeline will to some degree depend on subcontractors.
“Where are we going to get the money?' asked Trustee Ron Steen and Village President Dave Rasmussen, who made the motion to approve, said they would probably have to borrow it. He noted that the last time the village went out to bid for this job, there was only one submission, out of the Twin Cities, and it was for $155,000. Clarke's bid was $117,371.
“I know we didn't budget for it but something has to be done,” he said.
And there may be a bit of money here or there, but Treasurer Laurie Cook was not present, who would know the various balances. It was noted that at least one other loan was ending, so there is that.
Finally, the caucus was set for Jan. 8 at 5:45 p.m., just prior to the regular meeting at 6 p.m.
The trustees whose terms are expiring include Sonja Jensen, Mike Miller and Ron Steen. Each has evidently gone on record that they intend to seek re-election for another term, but there will be at least one individual running against them, Nick Mueller, who has filled out papers to run.
December 19, 2019
Rehabbing, rentals and single-level living
By Lynda Berg Olds
Within the Village of Luck, the recent housing study shows 64 percent of the homes are owner-occupied and 36 percent are rentals. The findings of the study suggest there is a slight need for more rental units with an estimated vacancy rate of 4.9 percent.
During the community forum, there was feedback that the rental vacancy rate was likely closer to zero than five percent, which is being examined further. Interestingly, the study concluded there is a definite need for more owner units with an “estimated vacancy rate of zero percent.”
One further determination is there is strong probability that many homes may need to be “rehabbed” (or replaced) as no less than 17.3 percent of housing structures were built circa 1939.
Affordability of home ownership was not determined to be quite as big of a concern as with some other communities in Polk County. The Village of Luck’s “housing affordability ratio” was 2.7 indicating that the median house is affordable for the median household income.
Conversely, a household is considered to be “cost burdened” if it pays 30 percent or more of its income on housing costs. In 2017, 28.5 percent of Luck’s owner households with a mortgage were cost burdened, an increase from 23.5 percent in 2000.
According to the most recent ACS (American Consumer Survey from the US Census Bureau) numbers, 44 percent of households in the Village of Luck were below the Federal Poverty Level or were classified as ALICE households in 2016* (*see definition below) ALICE households earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living for the county. Combined, the number of ALICE and poverty-level households equals the total population struggling to afford basic needs. The percentage of households in these two categories decreased 11 percentage points between 2014 and 2016.
*The term “ALICE” – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – more clearly defines this population as households with income above the official Federal Poverty Level, but below a newly-defined basic survival income level.
In terms of affordability for renters, the Luck study showed median rent in the year 2000 was $436, compared to $812 in 2017. Rent went up by 86 percent, but renter income only went up 33 percent from $19,688 in 2000 to $26,250 in 2017. Of note, the 36 percent of homes that are rentals in the village amount to 186 households.
The study also said Polk County fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $763, but what the Luck median income renter can afford is $656.
Three-hundred and thirty households comprise the 64 percent of homes in the Village of Luck that are owner-occupied. The study, which utilized realtor data, says that the median home value in the year 2000 was $79,600. By 2017 that number was up to $109,100. Comparatively, the median owner income in 2000 was just $39,632 - and in 2017 was $50,833.
The study, which is still in preliminary form (until the end of February), concludes with some key housing goals, noting the defined rental priorities based on market demand – and looking to the future to help predict Luck’s future demand for rental units. Identifying the trends over a course of time was basically step one in accomplishing this.
The findings suggest Luck “strive to achieve a balanced rental housing market with additional opportunities at the lower and higher ends, while providing 'higher income' households opportunities to purchase a home.”
The advice thus far (for rentals):
“Encourage quality rental housing choices that meet local demand, while complimenting the overall vision and fabric of the community. There is an identified need for family units along with quality rentals for entry-level young professionals.”
The final piece provided by West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (et al) and presented by Associate Planner Susan Badtke talked about key owner priorities (as opposed to rentals). Number one is market demand for homes: “Address the Village of Luck’s existing and future demand for owner units.” Number two is market priorities: “Strive to achieve a balanced owner housing market with additional mid-level and move-up home opportunities.”
Third and finally came market preferences: “With consideration of the market priorities and the market preferences, encourage quality owner housing choices that meet local demand, including single-level living options for the aging population.”
For the reader's edification, Polk County's overall household size is decreasing, but the number of households is increasing. The median age in the county (as of 2017) was 44.8 years. The 2017 median household income was $53,551 – with 46.6 percent of households having an income of less than $50,000.
The next steps for the Housing Study are to integrate the community input and ideas from the housing forums into the studies. Then, the Housing Study Wrap-Up Session will take place Feb. 17 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Polk County Board Room at the Government Center in Balsam lake.
The final “deliverables and snapshots,” in essence the “takeaways” from the study will be provided to the county and municipalities, as stated previously, in late February.
January 9, 2020
Luck Winter Carnival welcomes new Grand Marshal
By Lynda Berg Olds
“It was a surprise,” stated Jacob “Jake” Jensen, when asked by Ledger Newspapers what it was like to find out he had been named the Luck Winter Carnival Grand Marshal. The Ledger/Enterprise Press sat down Monday morning with Jake, a pillar of Luck's Main Street business community, at (where else?) Jensen Furniture, circa 1956.
Jake relayed that Sherrie Johnson, Luck's Tourism Director and Winter Carnival Committee member, gave him the news. “It's an honor to be selected to represent our community in this way. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of that group.”
A lengthy conversation ensued with a lot of ground covered about Jake's life – his education, family, business, hobbies and his service to the Luck community.
One thing is certain, Jake's roots run very deep in the area. Jake was born in Neenah, Wisconsin and his folks moved back to Luck when dad Mark decided to join his dad at Jensen Furniture.
“We have actually been in business in Luck within pretty close proximity to this corner (Main Street and Highway 48) for 116 years. My great grandfather wasn't in furniture, he was a blacksmith by trade when he originally came to Luck and continued in farm equipment. Then my grandfather, Levi, bought the furniture business in 1956.”
Jake is 1992 graduate of Luck High School and attended the U of W – River Falls directly thereafter, where he met Sonja, his bride to be. He graduated with a degree in Conservation and Soil Sciences and she with a degree in Social Work. They married right out of college in 1998 and Jake was a Golf Course Superintendent at a course outside of Hudson, while Sonja was employed in Ellsworth as a Director of Social Services at a nursing home.
They moved [back] to Luck a couple years later and started their family. Isabelle is now 20 and a sophomore in college at LaCrosse; Levi [a superstar athlete] at 17, has already signed with the University of North Alabama; and up and comer Wyatt is 16.
“We've got great kids. We are very proud of them. We are very fortunate in many regards, but certainly blessed with great kids...it is interesting how having your first child changes your perspective. The timing of things coincided with Isabelle being born, and St. Croix Valley Hardwoods owned the building across the street (kiddie corner), which was for sale.”
Jake said during that time, with the new baby, they spent a good deal of time with his parents, Mark and Marsha, discussing the future, among other things. [Perhaps this would be a good time to point out that as Grand Marshal, Jake is following in his late mother's footsteps...]
“With that building being available, and knowing that first of all as any small business develops, you get to the point where you either have to get larger or stop, you can't survive anymore. My folks were at that point at that time, at a fork in the road themselves – so we knew that if we were going to support two families with the business, we needed more infrastructure so I made the decision at that point to give it a try and my folks purchased that building and we expanded the business. We never imagined we would fill it when we walked into that open space and looked at it. We thought we would rent out part of it. Now, we not only have filled it, but we added 7,000 square feet onto the back of it.”
There is 14,000 square feet then across the street and the main store is 12,000 square feet [on two floors] for a total of 24,000 square feet between the two spaces.
“I often tell our customers, because the store is so full and we have a lot of different departments, it is a bit like an onion, you just have to go through it by layers and don't let it overwhelm – just with the number of different pieces we have.”
The conversation went on to talk about how Jensen Furniture has grown and evolved over the years. There was a major change in how they did things that took place in 2003 with a complete store remodel involving vignettes, rather than, say, rows of couches, loveseats and recliners. Now the client could see how a living room suite went together, multitudes of different styles, sizes, fabrics and colors, complete with sofa, coffee table, end tables, carpets and lamps – with attractive throws and fine pieces of art – from simple and elegant – to elaborate or outdoorsy. While Mark and Marsha had surely done much of this, now there was a commitment to be a Flexsteel Signature Gallery, with a certain amount of space devoted to their products – and in turn that space had to live up to certain standards.
“It was significantly different from how we displayed our furniture in the past...the consumer can see much better how the furniture will look in a room setting. We added directive lighting and vignettes of this group [of furniture], this group and this group [and so on] throughout the store. It changed our business for sure.”
The store employs nine, with six full-time employees, plus they work with three different flooring installation crews.
Clearly a hugely busy man, with the phone ringing off the hook, Jake is also deeply embedded in the Luck community in a myriad of other capacities. He has served on the Luck School District's Board of Education since April of 2008 and for the past two terms has served as president (and still does!).
A member of Luck Lutheran Church and the Church Choir, Jake has served on the Church Council, is a member of the Luck Lions, the Luck Community Club, and the Big Butternut Lake Association, where he has also served as President.
Drawn to the outdoors, Jake and his family love to fish and hunt – be it deer, turkey or waterfowl. The family enjoys spending time at his mom's family property, which is nearby. His great-great grandfather settled there in 1868.
“The family still owns the land and to a certain extent it is part of the fabric that holds our family together. That is a piece of common ground. Everybody comes back here to be together there. Without that, some of those things may not happen. My mom's family was of Irish heritage and when they settled that land they came from Ireland. So we do get together there to celebrate our Irish heritage.”
Jake has a sister Jackie, who comes to the family functions with her three kids, along with other extended family.
Jake was eloquent in closing:
“I just want to reiterate the honor that I feel to represent our community, which is so important to many, for many, many reasons in terms of what Luck represents – home to lots of folks, whether they live here or not. It is interesting, and I don't know if it is the uniqueness of the name of Luck or what it is, but no matter where we go, whatever part of the country we're in, I meet somebody who knows of Luck, Wisconsin. They either have a relative here – or some connection to our part of the world and I think that is pretty special.
“We live in a special place...and sometimes we take that for granted. We take a lot of what we have here for granted. All of us do because we are in the everyday grind and importance of what you have to do in your daily life. But we are part of a pretty special area with some pretty special people.
“If you ever have the unfortunate circumstance of going through some sort of family tragedy or unfortunate event, you realize how fortunate we are to be among such great groups of people. The support that our community provides for everybody is pretty unique. I think that compassion and concern for your neighbor, in our society, unfortunately, I don't think that exists everywhere like it does here – and I hope that is always something we can continue to perpetuate.”