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No deal yet on Jefferson School

In their last official full board meeting Dec. 17, Steve Anderson and Bethany Borgschatz had hoped to see a decision go through on a possible sale of the Jefferson School. The decision was unanimously tabled after the board received a new, higher bid from the Stencil Group earlier in the day. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
In their last official full board meeting Dec. 17, Steve Anderson and Bethany Borgschatz had hoped to see a decision go through on a possible sale of the Jefferson School. The decision was unanimously tabled after the board received a new, higher bid from the Stencil Group earlier in the day. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

Steve Anderson and Bethany Borgschatz wanted to see a deal go through with the Jefferson School before their term on Red Wing School Board ended.

The possible sale will have to wait for 2019, however, along with the seating of incoming members Jim Bryant and Holly Tauer when the board reconvenes in January.

The board unanimously voted to table the discussion Dec. 17 after receiving more information from one of two potential buyers.

On Monday afternoon district administrators received an email from Darin Groteboer, a broker working for Fort Inc., who is working with the Stencil Group's bid. The email stated the Stencil Group is willing to increase the purchase price to $300,000. This represents an increase of $50,000 from the previous bid.

'Our timeline'

The Stencil Group presented its plans during the Dec. 3 meeting, with the board having a mixed reaction to a potential senior living facility and adding a building to the block-sized property.

After a story recapping the Dec. 3 meeting appeared in the Republican-Eagle, the district received two other offers for the property. The Operations Committee met on Dec. 10 to discuss one of those two options, an offer from Keller-Baartman Properties to purchase the property for $250,000 to establish a day care center in the 101-year-old school.

On Dec. 13, after receiving Keller-Baartman’s offer and meeting with the Operations Committee, Finance Director Jackie Paradis wrote a letter to inform the Stencil Group that the district will be ending negotiations.

In his email on Dec. 17, Groteboer said, “In the event that the School Board still refuses to engage with us on this process and does begin to move forward with another group, please inform the Board at this evening’s meeting that we have already begun discussions with our outside legal counsel regarding the Stencil Group’s legal remedies in regards to how the sale of Jefferson School is now being handled.”

Paradis informed the board Monday that it is “our timeline” on what the future of the building will be. Board members don’t need to call a public meeting on the sale of the building, only if they were to close a building, according to Paradis.

The Operations Committee also reviewed options of what it would cost to remodel the Jefferson building, in case it is needed for future use if enrollment numbers increase. Kraus-Anderson calculated preliminary estimates that would show a remodel being between $8.1 million to $12.9 million. The district is spending somewhere between $50,000 to $75,000 per year to maintain the building.

No 'hasty' decisions

After the Dec. 3 meeting, Borgschatz said she thought the Stencil Group was not being "forthright" with its proposal, saying the additional building on the property surprised the board.

Borgschatz, Steve Anderson and Pam Roe, all who sit on the Operations Committee, shared their perspectives from their meetings on the subject of the proposed school sale.

Anderson said the Stencil Group's offer came unsolicited back in May, seeming to be attractive for a building that has been discussed going back five years on the Facilities Planning Commission. Anderson said the board has gotten questions from concerned citizens about the building, saying they've been thinking about the building for years, not going to make "a hasty decision."

"While I agree that Red Wing needs more housing, we didn't know if that was perfect for us or not," Anderson said.

Roe said even if the district's enrollment projections show an increase over the years, using this building isn't a feasible option.

"There is absolutely no indication for us, as a district, that we will need an additional building anytime soon. ... So to say that we need to hang on and spend $50,000 to $75,000 dollars a year for a what if, I don't think is a good use of our money," Roe said.

School Board member Janie Farrar said she wanted to hold off on a decision to get more information on the block's value.

"I am all for day cares and a purchase agreement with the company, but I just want to make sure we've gone through the right steps and show our community that we've done the proper process of doing it," Farrar said.

The decision will now go back to the Operations Committee and back to a full board discussion before any final decisions are made.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2018 covering school board, public safety, and writing features. Lambert previously wrote for the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication: Journalism. 

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