Hopes blossom for abandoned high schoolFor more than a decade, the old Kenyon-Wanamingo High School has sat largely vacant. Shattered windows line exterior. Pigeons and other wild animals have taken residence in its empty halls and classrooms.
By: Eric Ludy, The Republican Eagle
For more than a decade, the old Kenyon-Wanamingo High School has sat largely vacant. Shattered windows line exterior. Pigeons and other wild animals have taken residence in its empty halls and classrooms.
But now, due to the tax forfeiture of the property May 10 to the state, Goodhue County and the city of Kenyon are set to explore options for the building's future.
At its meeting Tuesday in Kenyon, the Goodhue County Economic Development Authority agreed to move forward with placing a value on the property and arrange for its eventual sale. Under state statutes, the responsibility of finding a public or private buyer for the tax-forfeited property falls upon the county.
The EDA will now submit a letter to the city of Kenyon requesting approval of a valuation and sale of the property. Kenyon will have the option to delay the sale by six months as it explores options for the building.
For Kenyon City Administrator Chris Heineman, this is a chance to resolve an issue that has plagued the city for years.
"The common perception is that, so far, nothing has been done about this property," he said. "Now we have the legal authority to take action."
Potential uses for the building discussed with county officials include establishing a community center, demolishing the building to clear space for a park or band shell, or renovating the gymnasium for use by the local high school.
County officials expressed interest in renovating the old. Heineman gave a "ballpark figure" of $1.5 million to $2 million. Kenyon-Wanamingo School District would likely pay $4 million to 5 million for a new gymnasium at the current school, and option that it is being looked looking into, he said.
So far, no feasibility studies have been conducted to determine the potential costs of a full or partial renovation of the old school. he costs will likely vary by the section of the building, Heineman said. The school was built in three stages: the original three-story building in 1916, the auditorium addition in 1938 and the gymnasium and other facilities in 1962.
However, a complete demolition would also likely be costly, Heineman said. The city is exploring grants and other potential sources of funding to pay for any redevelopment or demolition.
The city plans a meeting sometime in late June for public input on potential uses.
"If we go through this without involving members of the community in a meaningful way, it would be really shortsighted," Heineman said.
Goodhue County Finance Director Carolyn Holmsten said that the next steps of the process will require careful legal attention on the part of Goodhue County and Kenyon. Any potential sale will need to be submitted to the state for approval, she said. There are also complicated rules involving the use of the renovated or demolished property.
"There is a lot to be studied, learned and done in the next six months," she said.