Herald and Journal, May 21, 2001

Winsted merchants react to school site numbers

By Lynda Jensen

Nearly two dozen Winsted business leaders heard a presentation given by a member of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District Thursday.

Board Treasurer Jim Fowler spoke about the school site issue, upon the invitation of the Winsted Civic & Commerce business organization.

Fowler distributed information and answered questions about cost estimates for a new high school given at the school board meeting two days before.

The numbers show a jump of 26 percent in the estimated cost of building a new school, which school officials attributed to an inflationary builder's market, since the original numbers were quoted in 1999.

"There were astronomical jumps," Fowler said. The pool, which is quoted as an eight-lane pool, went up from $2.4 million to $4 million in itself, he said.

Winsted merchants noted that the numbers showed the best tax rate in the school district if the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted district consolidates with the Lester Prairie School District, because the state may subsidize the construction of the new site.

A 40 percent decrease (in cost to taxpayers) would surely sway some people," one attendee said.

Right now, the tax rate for HLWW school district is low because it has very little debt, Fowler said.

This rate goes up and down in a cycle, according to the needs of the district, one attendee noted.

Winsted Mayor Don Guggemos discussed several issues, such as the willingness of Winsted to prepare for residential growth to accommodate the school, the role of Holy Trinity, and open enrollment.

The feedback Guggemos has received from Holy Trinity parents and staff is that they feel Holy Trinity can stand on its own merit, producing a quality education independent and regardless of what HLWW does, Guggemos said.

A major goal of the new Winsted administrator, when that person is hired, would be to pursue residential opportunities, Guggemos said.

Open enrollment was also a subject of discussion, with several attendees indicating that a large resource of students existed in the Winsted-Lester Prairie area.

Guggemos encouraged Winsted merchants to support the consolidation effort.

"Nothing in the next 50 years will impact Winsted," as much as this school site selection, Guggemos said.

Most students were lost to open enrollment in the Lester Prairie area, said Winsted C&C President Doug Bebo.

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