Kitchen Const. gets bid on solar

Board member James Kitchen, far right, sits in the audience as the school board discusses his bid on the solar energy project at the athletic center.

Board member James Kitchen, far right, sits in the audience as the school board discusses his bid on the solar energy project at the athletic center.

By Marcie Klomp

After getting some answers to additional questions and discussion, on Feb. 10, the Howard-Winneshiek School Board gave the solar panel job to fellow board member James Kitchen of Kitchen Construction. During the discussion, Kitchen moved to the audience, rather than staying at the board table.

Bids were listed at the January board meeting, which had Kitchen about 20-40 cents per kilowatt less than the other bids, which led to the board accepting his proposal.

One question the board had from January was if insurance would increase. Larry Trende, buildings director, explained insurance could raise plus or minus $1,200.

Supt. John Carver offered, “I think this is a good thing to go forward with.”

Director Doug Berg observed, “The return on this is 14 years. I don’t think that is great. The deciding factor is blending this into a class.” It had been discussed to incorporate the building and operations of the solar panels/energy into a class project or ongoing experiment. Although Trende admitted, “We’re not going to have them turning wrenches,” but students will learn more just by keeping track of how it works.

Board President Scott Fortune noted, “This is a good tie-in for the new engineering classes,” which the board authorized earlier in the meeting.

Carver added, “Alternative energy is going to be huge. The next thing on the horizon is solar. I think this will be a good learning experience for the kids.”

When asked, Kitchen responded, “We can start putting them up a month after the frost.”

• In other business, the directors gave their observances of the district in the past month. Karlos McClure and Kitchen attended many athletic events. Kitchen added sitting in the stands was a good opportunity to talk about things with others in the district and get their input.

Duane Bodermann toured the Cresco campus and noted there were some good things and some bad. “We’ve got some things to improve on.”

Fortune was pleased with the Grow Howard County Task Force meetings. “It’s a good thing,” he said. Grow Howard County is a group that is trying to get veterans and alumni to move to or back to the area. The next meeting is Feb. 22 at 9 a.m. at NICC. Everyone is welcome.

Berg commented on the weekly update (which is available by contacting The update gives a weekly overview of the district by the superintendent, principals and other staff. “When I saw what John did in one day . . . we wouldn’t have had anything like that one year or two years ago.”

• Carver was excited about what the students could do with the 3-D printer. He said besides making something out of plastic, items could be formed out of chocolate. Berg joked the kids should bring an Easter project to the next board meeting!

• The calendar for 2014-15 has not been accepted yet. Carver needs another month to learn more about the legislation related to going to school for a set number of hours, rather than 180 days, as is now the law.

Kitchen and Bodermann had been talking with residents about renaming the district. Currently it is referred to as Howard-Winneshiek (which leaves out the Chickasaw students), Crestwood, Cadets and Cresco.

It would be hard to change the Cadet logo, since it is on nearly everything. Kitchen admitted, “For the most part, people said why fix it if it’s not broken.”

That is a viable solution, but for those outside the district, the name can be confusing. For example, Carver said, “I was here for a year before I learned that Waukon and Allamakee schools were the same thing.”

No decision is to be made, but Kitchen asks the public to let him know their thoughts on changing the name.

• Due to declining enrollment, H-W is able to get $107,418 in spending authority. Business Manager Clint Farlinger explained, “We have the cash, we just need the authority to spend it.” The state authorizes each district as to how much it can spend. The board will ask the state to extend its spending authority.

• Trende was allowed to order a temperature control system for the early learning center in Cresco. This will allow him to turn the temperature up or down remotely from his computer.

• As of the meeting, $2,000 had been raised to send four students, the superintendent and a chaperone to Washington, D.C. for the unveiling of the Norman Borlaug statue.

The next board meeting will be March 20 at the high school media center in Cresco, at 7 p.m.



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