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Southland referendum fails by wide margin

The $24.5 million referendum to renovate Southland’s middle school and high school site to also include elementary grades failed at the polls on Tuesday by a wide margin, 855-360, according to Mower County Auditor/Treasurer Steve Reinartz.

“It is disappointing,” said Superintendent of Schools Jeff Sampson after the vote total was calculated, adding he and school board members felt the result would be closer.

He said the board would be evaluating the issues and move forward.

“The needs are still here,” Sampson added. “We’ll go back and see what our options are, and address them.”

Officials had wanted to renovate the Adams-based site and close the elementary school at Rose Creek.

The plan was to save operational costs, as well as almost $4 million in deferred maintenance and capital improvements that would have to be done if students are to remain in the elementary building.

If approved, the plan would have resulted in all students being housed at the Adams site.

Officials believed the plan was the most cost-effective and best long-term solution for the issues facing the district, according to Sampson, speaking during a recent public meeting. However, some at the same meeting said the increased taxes would put too much financial pressure on the farming community.

The work would have provided upgrades to the existing middle school and high school in Adams, including mechanical upgrades of HVAC, electrical and disabled access. A new, secure main entrance with adjacent administrative areas was planned for the southwest corner of the school. A new gym would have been added due to the increase in elementary population and for extracurricular activities.

The southeast classroom wing of the Adams building would be renovated to absorb the K-5 elementary grades. The additional classrooms would have been created in the wing by converting the current kitchen/cafeteria into classrooms.