The McGregor Public School District unveiled its site expansion plans during an informational public meeting held Feb. 16. The district had purchased a parcel of land north of the school in the spring of 2015. Last summer, the existing motel and trailer park were demolished and the site was cleared and has remained vacant.
This past fall, the school board began conceptualizing a site improvement plan for the newly acquired property along with the help of LHB, Inc., an engineering and architectural firm out of Duluth, in order to identify the project needs and budget.
During the course of three meetings, the school board and LHB identified the project goals as follows: creation of a new entrance drive from Hwy. 65 and 210, expansion of the parking lot areas, providing a new gateway for better visibility, improving site connectivity between the school and new parcel of land, increasing green space, enhancing the building appearance at the new entry with a facade and channel block lettering, developing a storm water strategy that addresses existing drainage and building a sense of community.
Heidi Bringman, LHB, Inc., landscape architect, presented an overview of the project during the public meeting. She explained that the site expansion plan will provide the school with a better presence within the community and the additional green space will allow for additional recreational field areas for student use. An improved drop-off/pick-up space near the auditorium doors will be expanded to allow for extended pedestrian space. While this expansion will eliminate approximately eight current parking spots, the new parking lot located on the east (rear) side of the school, will provide 62 new parking spaces for a total of 126. Additional lighting, accent lighting and a monument sign are also included in the plan.
Following her presentation, Bringman invited questions from the audience. One audience member inquired about drainage, since the grade of some of the surrounding property will be slightly elevated and there are a few houses between the current north parking lot and the new entrance. Ms. Bringman explained that new underground culverts will be installed to handle runoff and the nearby homes should not have any adverse effects from the new configuration.
Other audience members inquired about potential traffic issues involving the new gateway leading directly to First Ave. before continuing onto Hwy. 65 and 210 from the parking lot. Anthony Pierce, maintenance supervisor, and Superintendent Paul Grams explained that there would be stop signs for north and southbound traffic at the corner of the auditorium within the school lot. Traffic passing east and west would pass through and have the right-of-way.
At the main entrance on First Ave. near Hwy. 210, the district will recommend a three-way stop, which would stop vehicles coming out of the school entrance and both the east and westbound traffic. Vehicles coming off Hwy. 210 will have the right-of-way and may pass through in any direction. “This is due to the fact that there isn’t enough space for cars to stack in that location without them potentially getting backed up onto the highway,” explained Grams. “The intersection will be controlled by the city and they have the final say with regards to the signs.”
Bringman explained that a traffic study has not been done for the area but that might be warranted in the future if deemed necessary. “Anything beyond the main entrance and First Ave. (on the highway) would require the involvement of MnDOT.”
Another audience member inquired about handicapped parking. Bringman explained that for a parking lot of the proposed size, the district would be required to have five handicapped spaces. The current site has three handicapped parking spots. The location of these spaces will be determined at a later date.
The project will be advertised for bid within the next two weeks. LHB, Inc., will continue to work with the school board to help select a general contractor and award the contract in March. Mobilization and site preparation is anticipated to begin sometime between late-April and mid-May when road restrictions are lifted with construction scheduled to be complete by Aug. 1.