Herald and Journal, May 8, 2000

HLWW Site Task Force forces cities to bid for new school site

By Andrea Vargo

The members did the job requested of them, and they did it well, was the consensus of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Site Task Force, Thursday.

But the reality is that the first site the task force picked for a new district high school was rejected by the Victor Township Board, since it did not fit into its new land use plan.

The school board did not give the task force any new criteria, but told it to find the best site.

The task force members felt they already did that.

They said they assumed, since the only two sites left are the Franke property south of Howard Lake and the Fiecke property north of Winsted, that one of these two would have to be the site.

As it turns out, architect Bob Abendroth stated there was only one point difference in the rating of the two sites by topography, wetlands, and other considerations.

Therefore, other criteria were needed.

Two items seemed to float to the top of the discussion: cost of the new school and concentration of student population.

Several task force members asked why the district would want to place a school in an area where only 25 percent of the students were located.

Others want the best cost for the district.

One member pointed out the task force had decided a long time ago, that $500,000 for land isn't a lot of money in the long run and in the overall cost of the project.

So to pit Howard Lake against Winsted in a bidding war is counter-productive in uniting the district.

"This country was built on competition, and . . . it is a healthy thing," said Superintendent Riley Hoheisel.

"I think one of the criteria is financial. If either city puts together a phenomenal package, it gets the school," he said.

The cities might throw in other things to "sweeten the pot," others said.

Others insisted the cost of the school is only a part of the criteria for selecting a site.

Then Linda Schroeder of Schroeder Communications did what she calls a reality check.

"If the cities already both offered sewer and water to the sites, and if the price of the land is (not supposed to be an issue), what do you want (for criteria)?" she asked.

What the cities use as criteria to make presentations, seemed to be the issue, and it seemed that land really is one of those issues, according to some of the members.

In an effort to keep a bidding war from dividing the district, others did not want the district to pit one city against another.

"We have to have a district that works together, before we have a school," said school board member Jim Fowler.

One way to keep the cities from a bidding war is for some private citizen to come forward and donate the land for the school, said task force member and Howard Lake Mayor Gerry Smith.

Then, Abendroth was instructed to provide a concrete list of things the cities need to address in their 30-minute presentations to the task force, and both cities also have an option to include other sites in their presentations.

Skeptical, Schroeder asked, "Will we actually have any new information?"

The task force felt there would be new information from the cities.

Referring to the survey the task force did some months ago on new school issues, Schroeder pointed out the Howard Lake site would be supported by a majority of the survey respondents district-wide: 68 percent district-wide; 84 percent of Howard Lake residents; and 45 percent of Winsted residents.

Winsted seems to be more open to supporting a site in Howard Lake rather than the reverse, she said.

There is a need for proper marketing when the site is selected, said school board member Randy Heuer.

"We need to let it be known what we had to change and why. We need to tell people what the issues are, and how we perceive them," he said.

The cities will receive a letter giving them about a month to put together a presentation on the physical aspects of the respective sites and things the city might do to entice the school board to choose its site, the task force decided.

It is hoped this can be done quickly, said Hoheisel.

But a more realistic time frame might be six to eight weeks for all the research to be complete, Smith said.

Roads need to be addressed, and that takes time to deal with other government bodies, he said.

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