School renovation project - Central graduate awarded contract

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Central student Mackenzie Vlazny looks over some of the items from the media center that are being offered to students, faculty and staff at no charge.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

 

A contractor with a special connection to Central Schools in Elkader will be managing the renovations there.

Ed Larson, who with his wife, Janet, owns the Independence-based Larson Construction Company, is a 1958 Central graduate. His company submitted the lowest of three bids received for the school’s capital improvements project. Their base bid of $7.13 million barely edged out Portzen Construction of Dubuque who came in at $7.15 million. The other bidder at $7.3 million was Tri-Con Construction, also of Dubuque.

Larson Construction has a project portfolio that includes more than 60 university projects and 75 K-12 jobs. They’ve cocompleted large-scale projects at Starmont, North Fayette, Decorah, Aplington-Parkersburg, Ed-Co and a string of other schools. The company has also done considerable commercial, industrial and healthcare work.

“We actually built part of the school that we’ll now be rebuilding,” said Larson. “Of course, that was many, many years ago. It’s unbelievable how fast time flies. But in many ways, not much has changed at the school in all that time. The principal’s office is right where it always was!” 

Larson did not explain why the location of that office was familiar to him, though he’s not remembered as a rabble rousin’ student.

After graduating from Central, Larson attended Luther College and then the University of Northern Iowa where he ultimately earned his undergraduate degree. He also earned a master’s from a Colorado school. Larson taught for 10 years before returning to the construction field.”

“I always had a knack for building things even before I graduated high school,” he said. With long-time local contractor Paul Schneider, Larson worked on many projects in Elkader including the Sunday school wing at Peace United Church of Christ.

Ed and Janet started their company in 1968. Even as it’s grown, it’s remained a family business: Each of the couple’s three children and their spouses are involved in the company.

Larson was notified last Tuesday evening that the Central School board had accepted his company’s bid. By Wednesday morning, workers were in the building doing initial measurements. Work began Monday in the foyer and high school library area, which will be transformed into a large commons.

According to Central Superintendent Nick Trenkamp, last Thursday and Friday were spent relocating the high school media center to a space in the elementary wing. As part of the process, materials not longer needed by the school were placed in the foyer for students, faculty and staff to take.

“It’s pretty amazing how well our staff and students did emptying the space,” Trenkamp said, adding that students volunteered for the effort and worked only during non-instructional time.

The renovation project will take approximately three years to complete. The project includes improved accessibility, new academic spaces for students, a modern kitchen and cafeteria, new media center and building security.

Also at last week’s meeting, the board awarded Robert W. Baird & Co. Milwaukee, WI, the bid for the issuance of general obligation bonds and providing for levy of taxes resolution. There were four bidders, with Baird having a low bid of a three percent rate.

Note: Freelance writer Pat McTaggart contributed to this article.

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