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Time to negotiate: Keller-Baartman’s bid accepted for Jefferson School

The historic Jefferson School block may be sold this week to Keller-Baartman Properties after the Red Wing School Board accepted a request for proposal from the company March 18. The district will now negotiate the purchasing of the block in hopes of finalizing the deal that's been in discussion for months. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia

After months of discussion, the Red Wing School Board accepted a request for proposal from Keller-Baartman Properties at the March 18 regular meeting.

The discussion was held during a closed session to cover the three proposals that were submitted:

• Keller-Baartman Properties LLC

• James and Jennifer Patterson

• Valley View Recovery Center

The RFPs themselves were not released to the public and board members did know specifics until the time of the closed session.

After a lengthy discussion and consensus to hold the discussion in a closed session during their March 4 school board meeting, board member Jim Bryant rebuked that idea, asking the board why it was necessary for them to do so.

At the behest of their attorney, Superintendent Karsten Anderson had encouraged the board to handle the discussion in a closed session. Bryant said he'd prefer to have the discussion in an open meeting so the public can hear it.

Eventually the RFPs will become public as well as the closed session audio taping that was done during the meeting, according to Anderson.

Board member Janie Farrar asked what Bryant's concerns were about not being transparent. Bryant said in a closed session there is "a fine line where to walk" and that boards can discuss only certain things.

Board Chair Arlen Diercks said based on how the RFPs were worded, the amount offered and the purpose of the proposal can't be let out to the public until a purchase agreement is signed.

Anderson said the language in state statute is "so puzzling" because the information is not considered public data, but the district attorney said they are able to share some private data to the public as long as the meeting is public.

The board voted to go into a closed session 6-1, with Bryant voting against.

After a closed session lasting a little more than 10 minutes Monday, the board voted unanimously to negotiate the sale of the century's old building and block to Keller-Baartman.

During public comment period, two residents spoke in favor of Keller-Baartman and said they hope the school's green space remains.

Anderson will negotiate to finalize the sale. Anderson said they will meet this week and hopes the negotiations will not last long.

Board members thanked the groups for their proposals, saying the proposals all met some form of what they were looking for in a potential buyer.

Prior to the vote, several board members said they, too, hope to retain the playground in some fashion.

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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