Herald and Journal, Nov. 19, 2001

Schools suspend consolidation talks

By Lynda Jensen

Talk of a potential consolidation between Lester Prairie and the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school districts was suspended following a committee meeting Monday.

Both districts cited the desire to organize with respective new board members as the result of recent elections.

Lester Prairie voters re-elected board members Chester Hoernemann and Fred Blaser, and elected Bob Carlson as a write-in candidate.

All three men have publicly expressed opinions against consolidation. Board member Gene Starke, who was open to the idea of consolidation, did not run again. There are a total of six members on the Lester Prairie board.

Lester Prairie voters turned down an operating referendum for that school district, by a narrow margin.

HLWW voters, particularly those in Howard Lake and Waverly, flooded the polls to elect John Lideen, and Charlie Borrell, among a choice of seven candidates.

Borrell took a position against consolidation during the school candidate forum in October.

Lideen stated at the same forum that he did not think consolidation was necessary, saying that he asked himself why it was needed. "We haven't successfully consolidated ourselves from the last time," Lideen said, during the forum.

The committee meeting was composed of two parts, HLWW board member Jim Fowler said.

The first was a financial analysis of curriculum offerings.

The curriculum offerings were discussed previously from the last committee meeting. This time, the financial information was added, which he felt was a profound argument in favor of consolidation, Fowler said.

"We looked extensively at curriculum," Lester Prairie Supt. James Redfield commented.

The second portion included discussion about the recent elections, which ended up in the two individual committees deciding to hold off further talks until next year when each board is settled, Fowler said.

"We will touch base at the end of February," HLWW Supt. Riley Hoheisel said.

Hoheisel indicated that this latest change of events will throw out the chance of putting a question on the ballot for the 2002 bond cycle. "We're not even close."

This means the school must wait until another even-numbered year - or 2004 - before it can put a question about this issue on the ballot.

The reason for the even numbered bond cycle is because of the potential $6 to $9 million of state money that may be given, under the condition that the two schools consolidate and then build a new school, Hoheisel said.

Is the process still a 'go?'

"Absolutely," Hoheisel affirmed that the process was definitely not a dead issue. "Time will tell," he added.

"I wouldn't classify (the talks) as broken off," Redfield said.

Fowler indicated that since the communities were not supportive of the idea, he felt attitudes would have to change for anything to happen in regard to consolidation.


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