HAZEL GREEN, Wis. — Crews have broken ground on a $2.5 million construction project at Southwestern Wisconsin Community School District.
By the start of the 2021-22 school year, residents will see a new eight-lane track; baseball, discus, football, shot put and softball fields; jump runways for track-and-field events; and a new school playground.
“We are extremely excited,” School Superintendent John Costello said. “We are happy to see the project starting … construction.”
The facility upgrades have been years in the making. District voters passed a measure April 7 approving the renovations and improvements, with 750 voting in favor and 512 voting against.
Construction, overseen by Owen Wiederholt Excavating and Trenching, of Hazel Green, began Thursday with the demolition of existing structures and removal of trees.
Initial tasks include site grading and upgrades to an existing village sewer line, part of which extends underneath the athletic fields.
Project manager Luke Wiederholt said construction will last until about October, with finishing touches to be conducted in the spring. Facilities should be ready in time for the spring 2021 baseball and softball season.
The school board recently authorized the issuance of $2.5 million in general obligation bonds to finance the project.
The district is considering adding a turf football field, which Costello anticipates would increase costs but lead to long-term savings.
“We are just able to use that more efficiently than we would a grass field,” he said.
The board also recently received a $10,000 donation for the new playground that will offset expenses, and is looking at energy- efficient LED lighting.
Costello said if state aid to the district remains constant, he anticipates that the project will have no impact on residents’ property taxes, but that could change if the Legislature reduces its annual allocation to make up for lost tax revenue stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Tony Evers has stated Wisconsin could face a $2 billion budget shortfall, but specific figures were not yet known. However, a deficit could be mitigated through about $2 billion in federal funding Wisconsin is expected to receive through the federal CARES Act and an anticipated $655 million balance in the state’s rainy day fund.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” Costello said. “It’s scary times for all our communities. It’s scary times for what this pandemic is doing.”
School board President Jodi Fritz could not be reached for comment.