A group’s dreams for the Center for Educational Development (CED) of Winnebago may have gone up in smoke Tuesday night.
City Council members went into closed-session for nearly 45 minutes to discuss the potential sale of the former elementary school building.
“I am real surprised and had no idea this was going to be discussed,” says CED board member Scott Robertson. “I was under the impression we were working with the city to make it a vocational training center and a place for community events.”
An agenda item to discuss sale of city property at 132 1st Ave. S.E. seemed to catch Robertson off guard because he asked the council if that was not the address of the school building.
Robertson told council members that Genesis Classical Academy would be interested in leasing a portion of the building for $30,000 a year or pay $50,000 to use the entire facility.
He says the revenue from Genesis and other potential renters would help offset yearly operational costs estimated at $150,000.
The city purchased the school for $2 from Blue Earth Area School District after Southern Plains Education Cooperative decided to move to Fairmont.
City leaders threw their support behind Winnebago Area School Project’s five-page plan to convert the building into a day care, recreational facility, vocational training center, community event center and a school for grades pre-K through 12th.
Following the closed-session, Councilman Rick Johnson made a motion that the city sell the building and advertise for bids as soon as possible.
Johnson says that while working on this year’s budget it became evident that the city couldn’t afford paying the operating costs.
Councilman Calvin Howard agrees with Johnson by saying, “Looking at our budget situation I don’t think it is in the best interest to be going in that direction right now.”
Another factor in the council’s decision may have been the uncertainty of gaining funds from the Legislature to make needed repairs estimated at $1.5 million.
Council members plan to review any bids that are submitted at their April 14 meeting and may take action.
For now, the council voted to table a letter of intent from Genesis to lease space.
“I don’t think Genesis has intentions to buy the building,” says Robertson. “We (CED) were doing what we set out to do, to help the city find tenants and save them money.”