Pine River-Backus School District: Bonding proposal opened to larger area

District says goodbye to loyal employees

Pine River-Backus School Board added a few tables to the media center for their April 21 regular meeting, and board member Ryan Trumble attended virtually using a computer all to keep up with social distancing measures. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

The Pine River-Backus School Board expanded its search for bonds to pay for a project to update facilities at the football field and inside the high school gym after local banks declined the opportunity to issue bonds.

Business Manager Jolene Bengtson told the board Monday, April 20, the local banks had indicated they are currently busy and have taken up so many loans they don't have capacity for the big project. As a result, the school district looked at the possibility of allowing Ehlers & Associates, Inc. to negotiate directly with other, larger financial institutions throughout the state and country.

Bengtson was asked if the local banks' difficulties might be a reason to delay the project just in case the district finds the same problem at other banks.

Bengtson explained that larger banks were unlikely to have the same problem. Bengtson answered a series of other questions, but assured the board that the district would be able to afford payments on the project without new taxes even if the interest rate was slightly higher than the 4% they were seeking and even though the school has not been receiving activities fees and similar payments during the state shutdown.

Bengtson explained that interest rates are slightly unpredictable now, but the disrict could find an institution willing to offer the bonds at a rate anywhere from 2%-4% or slightly higher. She also explained that even though the district is not receiving activity fees, they are still being fully funded.


The board approved the resolution to allow sale of bonds to a larger geographic area.

Farewell to loyal staff

The board accepted several resignations and briefly spoke about each. Perhaps chief among the resignations was that of Randy Schwegel, activities director. Schwegel retired from teaching at the school several years ago. The board estimated he has been with the district in one way or another for 43 years.

The board also recognized the resignation of Rita Sepin, a familiar face to anyone who has visited the district office. Sepin has been part of the clerical staff for many years and was often the first face people saw when entering the school by the district office doorway.

The board also accepted resignation from Derek Bebeau, vocal music instructor, and Luke Friederich, special education teacher.

The board spoke highly of these staff members and issued a thanks to them for their time with the district.

In other business Monday, the board:

  • Discussed progress in the district's distance learning. Both the high school and elementary principal spoke on lessons they have learned from the process, including improving attendance taking methods, lesson pacing and communications.
  • Hired Christopher Norton as transportation director.
  • Approved a new police liaison contract. The board discussed whether the contract had any stipulation in case the district has to continue distance learning in the fall and wouldn't need a police liaison on school grounds. Superintendent Dave Endicott said the contract did not, but he believed it was important to continue to contract with the local police so that the department can maintain a position for as many officers as possible. It was also suggested the local police department may be willing to work with the district should anything occur.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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