Building better futures

Some Fort Dodge Senior High students are building a house in the Lincoln neighborhood in a new partnership with the city government.

The home under construction at 923 Fourth Ave. N. is the first of three the students will be building in that area.

”We treat it as a real world, real job site,” said Curtis Tessum, a building trades instructor at the senior high school.

When the students finish that house sometime next year, they’ll shift their efforts one block south, where foundations have already been built at 910 and 918 Third Avenue South.

Tessum estimated that the Lincoln neighborhood houses will provide three to four years worth of work for his students.

While the students are doing the work, the city government is paying for the needed building materials, and hiring the electricians and plumbers.

Vickie Reeck, the city’s community development manager, said about $15,000 worth of material will be needed to finish the house at 923 Fourth Ave. N. She said the money generated by selling that house will be used to buy the supplies and services needed for the next one the students will build.

The third partner in the home-building venture is Bill McAnally, a former Iowa Central Community College carpentry instructor who is providing technical advice.

”This is perfect for them,” McAnally said of the students. ”It gives them a long-term project and the kids are doing something positive for the community.”

”You’ve got a lasting testament to your work when you build a house like that,” he added.

Initial work on the house and the two foundations a block away was done by Twin Rivers Habitat for Humanity. The city government subsequently took over the properties.

The current working arrangement emerged from a conversation McAnally and Tessum had in the parking lot of a building supply store.

”I asked Bill ‘Hey, do you know of anything we could do?”’ Tessum recalled.

He was seeking a project for his students in what is the capstone course of the school’s construction program. That course, he said, covers all aspects of building a house.

To be admitted into that class, students must first complete courses on home maintenance and carpentry.

Courses in concrete masonry and basic electrical work are also offered at the high school.

Tessum said nine students, all juniors and seniors, are working on the house.

He said the students work there for three and half hours during every school day.

Students from an interior design class will put the finishing touches on the insides of the home, he said.

”The more students we can get involved in this project, the better,” Tessum said.

When finished, the 1,500-square-foot house will have three bedrooms.

McAnally said all three houses will be built to meet the Iowa Green Streets Criteria, which are stringent standards for energy efficiency and indoor air quality.

Reeck said all three houses will be sold to buyers with low to moderate incomes as defined by government standards.

The building trades program at the senior high has existed for three years. In that time, the students have remodeled one house and built several garages.

”Our goal is to build a house every year,” Tessum said.