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Fairmont Area seeks building trades solution

August 30, 2012
Kylie Saari - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Fairmont Area's building trades class has built a home for years, auctioning it off in the spring to recoup the cost.

It has worked well in the past - the school isn't out any money, the students learn a valuable trade, and someone gets a nice, new house.

But things have become a bit bumpy in the last few years, with the house not selling at auction, bids coming in lower than break-even costs or, in last year's case, not selling at all.

With last year's house still sitting at the high school, the building trades class will not be able to build another one on site, and the district is out the cost of materials and supplies - about $43,000.

But Brad Haugen and his wife have offered the district another option. The couple has asked the district if it would allow the building trade students to build them a house off site.

Brad Haugen said he and his wife began considering the idea last year, when their family expanded and they started thinking about buying a bigger house. Logistics interfered, but with the current house not selling, the Haugens were approached again to see if they were interested.

The couple met with the school board operations committee Wednesday, and while there are several serious considerations to be made before approving the project, steps are being taken to see if something can be worked out.

The Haugens have contacted a contractor willing to work with the students, and there are no time constraints for the couple in terms of when the house would need to be completed.

But there are liability issues - namely who is responsible if one of the students gets hurt, either en route or at the worksite.

Superintendent Joe Brown said the district's insurance policy does not favor having students work off site.

There are also logistical issues.

The Haugens are looking to build near the soccer fields in Fairmont. Students would need to get there and back and still have a decent amount of time to get some work done.

Tara Haugen said she and her husband are just wondering if something can be worked out with the school. She says their main goal is to help the students.

The couple understands that people need to be involved to help the students succeed.

"Maybe we could be the start of something new," she said. "We have kids in the program and we don't know what they will want to do. I want them to have these programs available."

Brown agreed to research what other districts have done in similar situations, and how liability might be sorted out, but time is of the essence if the project would take place this year. Building trades teacher Keith Anderson said the students don't begin working on a house until several weeks after school starts.

Since the class doesn't pour foundations, one would need to be in place before the class went forward with the project.



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