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Shop class takes on challenging community project

The Kenmare Housing Corp., board of directors didn’t know what they were going to do when faced with renovating three apartments after tenants had vacated.

11/07/17 (Tue)

The Kenmare Housing Corp., board of directors didn’t know what they were going to do when faced with renovating three apartments after tenants had vacated.

Two of the apartments had numerous cosmetic issues, but the third was in a bad way and had serious issues before it could once again be livable.

Ron Jensen is one of the board members. He said the group did a fall walk through after the tenants moved out and that’s when they discovered there was no way they could rent those apartments as they were.

They considered piecemealing the apartments, but that could take an awful lot of time to get them back to an operational status.

“I was serious and I threw it out there,” Jensen said. “I wondered if the vo-ag class would be interested in this?”

Jensen said he got an immediate response from other board members calling it a heck of an idea.

But Jensen, who is known to many as being a humorous individual, was quite serious about this situation. He said he was actually angry at what had happened in the one apartment.

But, there was only one thing to do and that was to move on.

Jensen said that same night he was attending a volleyball match and brought his idea up to Superintendent Duane Mueller.

He said Mueller immediately suggested that Jensen go out to the vo-tech center and meet with instructor Ben Curdy. Jensen knew at that point that Mueller, at least, was on board.

When he met with Curdy, arrangements for ag construction class students to begin work, were quickly arranged.

“It went faster than I wanted it to go,” Jensen said. “Our misfortune is his gain.”

High school principal Sarah Beckedahl recently addressed the  housing project to the school board.

“The school is working with the housing corp to remodel and get these units up to use, hopefully by Christmas,” Beckedahl said. “It’s a win win.”

Curdy, however, in a separate interview, admitted the entire scope is going to be a challenge, but did say that at least one of the apartments will be available by Christmas.

According to Curdy, and several of his students, this is actual work experience and not patching a piece of drywall in the shop. There’s nothing to mimic. This is a real job site experience.

Beckedahl couldn’t have agreed more.

“They’re not re-creating something in the shop, they will actually be doing it in a home,” she said. “There are some unique challenges and the kids have their work cut out for them, but it will be very gratifying.”

Jensen was happy to be getting that kind of support that quickly. But there was still the issue of paying for the materials and perhaps the labor.

He met with management at Farmers Union Lumber in Kenmare and he said they quickly jumped on board, telling him all materials would be available at cost.

He then talked to management at Farmers Union Oil Co., and was told ‘we need to get tools in the kids’ hands.’

He later met with Stan Freeman of Vet’s Gaming about a grant to offset some of the expenses. Freeman told Jensen he would push as hard as he could to make it happen.

Apparently, Freeman didn’t have to twist too many arms because, according to Jensen, Vet’s Gaming provided a “generous donation.”

“So the community is behind this,” Jensen said. “This all could have ended with a no, but these people have gone above and beyond.”

In addition, Jensen said it was agreed that the students’ work will not go unnoticed and is for more than just work site experience.

He said the board will pay a fair labor rate, that will go back to the school and the vo-tech department, the same as if they were a construction crew on the site.

Jensen estimated the damage in the three apartments to be approximately $20,000 and an additional $10,000 will go back to the school for labor.

“The business community has been so generous in this respect,” Jensen said. “These kids are excited and this is above my capabilities.”

Jensen added there isn’t a strict guideline to get the work done. To him, it’s more important to work to standard not to time.

“They can move at their own pace,” he said. “They need to do a quality job. It’s not a strict timeline.” ... 

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