To the editor: 

The Red Wing School Board, in closed session March 18, awarded the bid to Keller-Baartman Properties for the sale and redevelopment of the former Jefferson Elementary School. Superintendent Karsten Anderson told the Rochester Post-Bulletin that negotiations should not take more than a week since the company's proposal aligns with the district's goals.

Today, significant issues still stand in the way of a purchase agreement. Differences over public use of the green space and specialized schooling were the focus of the School Board's Operating Committee on July 8, according to a Republican Eagle report. The purchase agreement will apparently be on the School Board's agenda for July 15, including discussion of whether the Keller-Baartman proposal should be rejected and the process reopened.

Anderson, at the direction of the school district's attorney, has recommended from the start that it was in the district's best interest to keep the proposals out of public scrutiny. He cited the "questions, the way that things are written and interpreted by different people" for recommending the School Board go into closed session to choose a proposal to negotiate.

Who exactly would offer different interpretations? It was not clear from his comments.

We now know that, at minimum, the school district and Keller-Baartman are not on the same page with key terms and conditions of the proposed sale. Among those is preserving the green space, which has been a community priority throughout this process.

It's instructive to neighborhood residents - and taxpayers - to see how negotiations have evolved since the proposal was selected.

Keller-Baartman wrote in its cover letter that "one of the many advantages of our proposal is that we will keep the current playground and layout of the outdoor area for neighborhood use." Now we read that Keller-Baartman has liability and safety concerns over opening the entire green space to the public.

And the superintendent's approach? He originally wanted Keller-Baartman to work with the city regarding the continued public use of the playground and ballfield. Is Anderson suggesting that the city take over that space as a public park? Is the city being asked to use taxpayer dollars to pay Keller-Baartman for land that has been free, public access for all these years under school district ownership?

Are these the discussions and differences of interpretation that Anderson wanted to keep from public view?

Jim Pumarlo

Red Wing