Saturday, July 18, 2020

Exeter-Milligan School Board Discusses Reopening

The Exeter-Milligan school board met Wednesday, July 8 in the Exeter gymnasium.  Close to 100 guests were present for the meeting.

President Adam Erdkamp welcomed the visitors and noted they would be taking care of all of the business items before they would open the discussion on the proposed consolidation with Friend Public School.

The board opened two hearings required by statue, one on student fees which opened and closed with no public comment and the other on the parent involvement policy which also garnered no comment.
The board approved the consensus agenda as presented.

Under old business Superintendent Paul Sheffield gave an update on the bathroom remodeling at both sites noting that both should be complete before school starts.  He informed the board they are still waiting on the contractor to start on the sidewalks.

Sheffield reported he had been working on the 2021 budget and the district has been slated for $39,000 in state aid.  He saw no real changes to the budget for next year.

Under new business Sheffield reported that the student handbooks are now available online.  The only change he mentioned was in regards to absences.  Previously, students had to attend at least half of the school day to participate in an activity, now, that attendance policy has been extended to include students who want to attend an activity.

The board approved the free and reduced lunch meal guidelines. There were no changes to the policy but because Exeter-Milligan does not receive government assistance for the program it is on the agenda each year.

The board approved Allison Petersen as a substitute in the district.

The board reviewed the census report filed with the state before discussing the fall reopening plan.
“We are planning on opening as scheduled,” according to Sheffield.  “We are not going to require masks, we will recommend, but not require.”

He explained that the one exception to this policy would be if the COVID dial would move to the red area.

The district has a committee working on issues relating to COVID at school.  It is working on a protocol if there is a positive case.  “They have recommended not having the open house to help minimize exposure and risks.  We may set up individual times for incoming kindergarten, third and seventh graders as they are entering a different facility,” Sheffield explained.

The committee has also recommended not charging admission or passing out programs during the fall sports season.  All students will have a temperature check before entering the bus. They will also be checked once they get to school.  The committee will have a written plan in place by July 25.

“Have your kids get used to wearing a mask even if just for 10 or 15 minutes at a time,” recommended Sheffield, “We did survey the parents and 80% of the parents did not want to require students to wear masks.”

The school plans to have 5 fabric masks on hand per student, one for each day, and then plans to wash the masks on the weekends.

After the consolidation discussion Sheffield informed the board that Exeter-Miligan would be hosting the county fair goat, sheep, pig and beef show on Striv.

The board excused member Kendra Oldehoeft and set the next regular meeting for August 12 at 8 pm in Milligan.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Throwback Thursday

Week of July 13

The plans for Gilbert's Park were nearly completed. Village Maintenance Supervisor John Mueller, along with summer help Richard Erdkamp and several volunteers finished pouring the cement sidewalk outside the swimming pool and also finished the cement sidewalk that encircles the playground.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Village Board Discusses Employee Insurance

The Exeter Village Board met on Tuesday, July 7 at 7 p.m. in the Village office.

After approving the minutes and invoices the board addressed the first topic on the agenda, ratifying all the actions during the boards April and May telephone conferences.  This was done to comply with the Nebraska Attorney General’s advice.

The board had a brief discussion on how the pool was functioning after repairs as there is still a leak.  They also reviewed the COVID 19 restrictions at the pool and current attendance.

The board discussed getting shirts with a Village logo on it to wear at conferences.  They chose a logo and gave Clerk Becky Erdkamp their sizes and chose a color.

The board broached the subject of providing health insurance for the employees.

Maintenance Supervisor John Mueller requested that the board look into this issue as this could affect some of his future employment decisions. Chairman Michl took up the issue, “The question John wants answered is if he doesn’t get insurance through his wife are we going to pay (health) insurance.”

Clerk Erdkamp provided the board with a quote from a local agent along with information on the amount and type of insurance surrounding villages provide for their employees.

All of the board was very positive about providing employees with insurance support if needed in the future.

There was no official marshal’s report but the board discussed an issue with a loose dog.  Clerk Erdkamp noted that the owner has been ticketed for a loose dog previously and she has gotten several calls about the dog threatening residents.  They also discussed the increased coon population problem in town.

Village Maintenance Supervisor Mueller addressed the leak at the pool in his report.   The Village engineering contractor JEO, plans to have someone certified by August to dive in the pool to see where it is leaking. This would happen at the end of the pool season.

Mueller noted the only cost from JEO would be renting the diving gear.

Currently Mueller and his crew have been cleaning out the ditches on East Boundary.

Mueller was approached by the Fairmont maintenance department to see if Exeter village was interested in purchasing a vacuum trailer together.  “It’s a combination honey wagon and power washer,” Mueller explained.

He noted it would be useful in cleaning out storm sewers and water lines.  Fairmont planned to put it in their next budget if Exeter would be willing to.  The board took no action.

Clerk Becky Erdkamp reported that sales tax for April was $10,252.62 and Keno for May was $85.30.

The board set their next meeting for Tuesday, August 4 at 7 p.m.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Exeter-Milligan School Board Discusses Feasibility Study with Fillmore Central


Exeter-Milligan patrons turned out in full force to share their opinion with the school board about the topic of consolidation.

The consolidation portion of the meeting, held July 8, in the Exeter site gym, began with school board president Adam Erdkamp noting that he had been contacted by PJ O’Connor, Fillmore Central’s school board president, about doing a feasibility study with Fillmore Central.

Board member Tim Pribyl had also been contacted by a Fillmore Central school board member and noted, “They would like to do it so bad they would pay for 100% of the study.  Why are we slamming the door in their face?”

Board member Dan Kallhoff added, “I think if we did it (feasibility study) with Friend we need to do it with Fillmore Central.  We need to see what we would have.  At least compare it, I think.”

The main point of contention among Exeter-Milligan school board members over the committee meeting with Fillmore Central was that it was just a discussion with a committee and not an offer from the Fillmore Central board.

“I agree that committees can’t make decisions. . .but it’s fair to assume committees have a pulse on where their boards are at,” noted Erdkamp.

Eric Milton, a board member and a committee member who was present at the meeting with Fillmore Central representatives added his thoughts, “I think it was pretty clear in our meeting with them.  Minutes were sent to FC board president to ask for verification.  I take it they were in agreement with our notes.”

Pribyl argued that Exeter-Milligan isn’t desperate to consolidate at this point in time, “Look at the census. We could make it ten years as we are.  Let’s get their study done.  There’s no hurry.”

Pribyl made a motion and Kallhoff seconded to accept the offer from Fillmore Central however, the motion was withdrawn after a brief discussion and protest from the crowd.

Audience member and parent, Margo Saatmann addressed the board about the options with Fillmore Central, “…you haven’t given us all the options. Do the feasibility study.  Take a breath, slow down.  Look at everything before you make a decision.”

The board opened the meeting for public comment and the first to speak was Taylor Slezak who was approached by a Fillmore Central school board member about the lack of interest from the Exeter-Milligan board in pursuing even a feasibility student.  She encouraged the board to at least do the study and see what makes sense for the communities and the students.

Exeter-Milligan science teacher Matt Nicholas asked the question that many of the patrons were wondering about, “What happened to the coop? We were going to coop sports and now we are going to consolidate?”

Pribyl responded, “We had no interest from the public in a coop.”

Erdkamp added, “I thought we could work into a consolidation down the road.  People didn’t seem for it.  Sports isn’t that big a part of it.  It’s about academics.” 

Nicholas encouraged the board to wait until the COVID virus dies down.

Parent Jill Oldehoeft asked what the importance of deciding to go with Friend by September. (The board indicated in a packet of paperwork available to patrons at the doorway that after six regular and special board meetings the board scheduled a vote on the agreement with Friend on September 16.)

Parent and Exeter-Milligan graduate JJ Hall opened her statement asking for more transparency from the board.  “I’m ok with the route this is going.  Has anyone asked Dorchester why they aren’t doing anything with Friend? I think we need to look into it.  It’s concerning we went from coop to consolidation.  If we consolidate we are stuck, it’s done.  I think we need to pump the brakes a little bit. I don’t know what the rush is to vote.  Our numbers are declining but we make it work. We don’t have all the facts and we don’t have all the options.”

Many of the crowd echoed and applauded Hall’s statement asking the board to put the brakes on a vote and to examine all of the options before committing.

Parent Carol Capek noted that the packet listed all of the advantages of a consolidation with Friend but felt that a list of disadvantages should also be included.  She also encouraged the board to get the information out to all of the taxpayers by mail.

Exeter-Milligan’s Family and Consumer Science teacher Mary Lou Vossler took the podium recalling that she was in the same predicament 18 years ago as Exeter and Milligan pondered a consolidation.  She encouraged the audience to remember that “kids can adapt.  My kids benefited so much by the merge (of Exeter and Milligan).  We need to realize we need to do what is best with our kids.”

Parent Eric Johnson explained he was a member of the first class at Fillmore Central.  He added that “change was tough, but change is good.  We need the opportunity to look at what Fillmore Central can offer us.”

Parent and Exeter-Milligan graduate Anthony Due reminded the board what is written in the Exeter-Milligan policy that the board is “the legal agency through which the community works to provide the physical facilities, curriculum, instructional supplies and staff to enable the district’s mission and objectives :to be carried out. Give us the facts and let us vote

Exeter-Milligan Physical Education teacher Darcy White took her turn at the podium and introduced anther idea to the audience, “Why can’t we do a feasibility study with Friend, Exeter-Milligan and Fillmore Central?  What is the attrition level of the Friend and Fillmore Central districts.  If all of our districts are having the same problem are we going to go through this in 15 years again?”

The packet the board shared shows a chart listing the drop in students at Exeter-Milligan which started with 321 in 2002-2003 to projected enrollment for 2020-21 at 145, a 54.8% drop.  Using 2019-2020 student numbers a consolidated district of Exeter-Milligan and Friend would have 369 students.  The packet did not include attrition numbers for the Friend district.

Parent Megan White asked the board how the levy information in the packet works.  For Exeter it shows the current levy at .06175 and for Friend the current levy is .07769 but a consolidated estimated levy would be .061333.

Sheffield offered to answer the question for the board.  He explained that he and Friend Superintendent Dave Kraus estimated a budget for the consolidated district that used some of the cash on hand from each district to bring down the levy.  “We have put enough money in the cash on hand because we know valuations will go down and we looked at cash on hand, and other expenditures and a few savings here and there.  It would reduce some of our cash reserve.  What we budget and what we spend is totally different.  We budget high.  If you don’t budget high you lose it,” he explained.

The packet shows that currently the two districts together are spending $8,522,671 but the estimated expenditures for a consolidated district would be $9,000,000.  This graph also notes that “additional efficiencies would be experienced through employee attrition.  This should reduce expenditures and possibly tax asking over time.”

Another audience member asked about how a new board would maintain a balance of members from each community.  Sheffield explained that wards would be set up for the first election of the new district board but after that it would change to at large members.  “There’s always been a gentlemen’s agreement that Exeter and Milligan residents would be equally represented on the board.”

Pribyl again made a motion to accept an offer from Fillmore Central to do a feasibility study and after a second from Kallhoff the board voted unanimously to pursue this avenue as an additional option.

There was no mention at the meeting that any of the future meetings would change. 

The board returned to the rest of the agenda before closing the meeting.