A motion to reject the proposal for Jefferson School from Keller-Baartman Properties was voted down during the Red Wing School Board meeting Aug. 5, keeping the discussion alive for weeks to come.
The hotly contested block-sized property has been on the district and board’s mind for months. And it seems it will continue after this last vote.
The board was notified by Keller-Baartman Properties, the group picked in March after a lengthy request for proposal process, that the real estate company will be pulling their offer for Jefferson School almost two weeks ago.
During an Operations Committee last week, Superintendent Karsten Anderson said he’d tried to speak with the owners, but were told their minds hadn’t changed.
Anderson said during the Monday school board meeting that he wishes they could’ve gone back in time and started with establishing a facility study on the property. The last time the district has done that with the Jefferson School site was around five years ago, Anderson said.
Anderson also suggested during the meeting that a strong consensus among board members and a look at the previous request for proposals might be a good idea to consider.
“We need to take our time and make sure we’re doing the right thing, not only for the school district, but the neighborhood and the community,” Anderson said. “Sometimes it’s OK to take a step back and regroup.”
During the public comment time, three residents spoke about the project. One resident said the board should stop negotiating with Keller-Baartman Properties and focus on a group that would guarantee a green space option.
Another wanted to have a more open approach to the decision-making process. The resident said having a discussion between the community and School Board would be better than a closed-session approach like the last time.
The district did meet with the city of Red Wing to discuss the green space at the site becoming a city park. The city would need at least a half acre of land to establish a park. On the Jefferson School property, there is slightly more than a half acre of land available.
Anderson said they should continue having discussions with the city, either looking into them owning a part of the property or giving some sort of assistance to whatever group purchases it.
Board member Janie Farrar is hesitant over “maybes” and wants to make sure the property, and district, is properly covered. Farrar said they are currently maintaining the property with no plans for future use, and need to make a decision on it.
Vice chair Pam Roe said they’ve looked into the property being a future option for programming, but said to make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, they’d need to fix the elevator, among other things.
Fixing and replacing parts of that building to be ready for future programming could cost upwards of $2 million, Roe said.
Board Chair Arlen Diercks and School Board member Holly Tauer voted in favor of rejecting the Keller-Baartman group altogether.
With the upcoming school year in just a matter of weeks, the board will continue discussions at their Aug. 19 meeting.