Hearld and Journal, March 8, 1999

School task force hears Winsted proposal, Waverly comments

By Andrea Vargo and Luis Puga

The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) Long Range Facilities Task Force listened to site proposals Thursday from the City of Winsted for the proposed new HLWW high school.

Also, Waverly Mayor Charlie Bush was given time to state Waverly's thoughts on the proposed high school and the proposed sites.

The City of Howard Lake made a presentation to the task force Feb. 24.

Winsted City Administrator Aaron Reeves presented four sites proposed by the City of Winsted for the new high school.

The proposals from Winsted as well as those from Howard Lake last week are detailed on other pages.

Architect Bob Abendroth said: "I've never seen such wonderful packages from cities."

What comes next, he said, is to sit down with the task force and discuss what criteria it wants to add to the information it already has.

Abendroth will use a chart to rate each site according to size, topography, soil conditions, watershed, and utilities.

Abendroth will do an independent site analysis, including a physical visit to each location.

Waverly Mayor Bush said, "Our city is not interested in the bidding process. We only hope the task force will keep two things in mind. Do what is best to serve the students and the community."

"We are not going to throw our weight behind one site or another, but we feel the school should be centrally located," Bush said.

He added that Waverly has changed a lot in the last few years, and housing developments are going to increase the number of residents in the not-too-distant future.

The Summerfields addition in Waverly will add 120 new homes, and the Ryan development has 52 acres that may be annexed. The Graham property on Wright Co. Rd. 8 has 140 acres, and all this means growth for Waverly, explained Bush.

Bush also told the task force that residents in the area have told him they will send their children to a closer school if the site is not central to the district.

Winsted City Council meeting

Discussion of the proposed HLWW high school began at Winsted's city council meeting Tuesday with a review of information from City Administrator Aaron Reeves.

He went over the four proposed site locations that were presented in December to the Long Range Planning Task Force.

Reacting to Howard Lake's proposal the week before, Reeves said the city should not get into talking about numbers such as growth and operation cost since they are "subjective." He also said that the architect, Bob Abendroth, will create his own numbers to judge any site's viability for the school location.

Reeves added that the city should solicit the school because not having the high school in Winsted would leave it unrepresented in the district, since the elementary school would presumably be closed. An elementary school would be maintained in Waverly, while Howard Lake would have a middle school. Reeves said the high school located outside of Winsted would leave the city at an economic disadvantage as well.

Audience members asked if Gerry Smith's (mayor of Howard Lake and task force member) figures on Winsted's growth being smaller than its neighbor's were accurate.

Former mayor Don Guggemos, who was involved in the initial discussions with the school district, said they were easily refuted and was not sure how Smith came to them. Guggemos did say that Wright County is experiencing impressive growth, but that growth is in other areas of the county.

Dick Genty asked if any attempts had been made to convince Lester Prairie of joining the district, and asserted that the people of Lester Prairie need to know more about the issue.

Reeves replied that all talks with Lester Prairie and the district had been informal and that Lester Prairie as a school district has shown no visible interest as of yet.

If Lester Prairie were to join, there is a likelihood that the consolidation would make a $6 million dollar grant available for the new school project from the state. It would also result in a larger tax base for the school.

Task Force Co-chair Jack Littfin also said that the taxpayers of the district would not be happy if little effort was made by the district to get Lester Prairie involved in the process.

Guggemos added that perhaps Lester Prairie could negotiate a consolidation by asking HLWW to take over some of Lester Prairie's bonded indebtedness. He also hypothesized that the Lester Prairie district would be left with a middle school, since it would not be likely to give up its school completely.

The discussion then turned to a motion from Gary Lenz who proposed setting aside $500 for an informational meeting for the interested parties in the project. After many caveats to tread carefully, the council passed the resolution that was proposed at the task force meeting.

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