Herald and Journal, April 23, 2001

Winsted school site is OK'd by HLWW board

By Lynda Jensen

With little fanfare, a controversial school site recommendation was passed by the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board during its meeting last Monday.

The board approved the site near Winsted as the best choice between the two remaining possible sites for a new high school, as recommended by the sub-committee that studied the issue, said Vice Chairman Randy Heuer.

Two board members dissented, Rick Lammers and Kirk Jensen.

Before the resolution was offered to choose the Winsted site, Lammers made a motion to table the decision one month, because new information surfaced that he did not previously know, he said.

"I thought I was well versed (about the situation). I was not," he said. It died for lack of a second.

After the motion died, a new motion was made to accept the recommendation for the Winsted site.

Members answered "yes" around the table, with the exception of Lammers and Jensen.

Jensen said after the meeting that he felt the school should follow the will of the people, and not choose a site that would cause that much division.

The two final prospects for the new high school location were: the Ray Fiecke property, located 1/4 mile north of the Winsted city limits, and the Edna Frank property, which is on the Howard Lake city limits, at the southwest edge of town.

The choice angered many Howard Lake and Waverly residents.

Howard Lake resident Pat Van Oss repeated what he said April 10 at the special board meeting, saying that he disagreed with the board's decision, because the referendum to pay for the school would never pass.

"Frankly, I'm not willing to spend $18 to $20 million on a new school in Winsted," he said. "It was the worst choice you could have made." The cost comparison was biased, Van Oss added.

A committee of four board members will proceed with negotiations for the Fiecke property: Chairman Gene Lorentz, Charles Weber, Jim Fowler, and Jim Raymond, Lorentz said.

There are three steps the board should take, in his opinion, Superintendent Riley Hoheisel said. The first would be to work with the architect and staff on more detailed plans, the second to write a review and comment for state approval, and third, to conduct a public relations campaign for the bond referendum.

Hoheisel predicted that there will be a bond referendum in the fall or early spring.

Winsted C&C hears about school plans

By Patrice Waldron

When members of the Winsted Civic and Commerce Association (C&C) met Thursday, they heard a presentation by Randy Heuer, vice chairman of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) School Board.

Heuer spoke about the selection of Winsted as the site for the potential new high school.

"This is not a project for today and the next year. We're looking at 10, 15, and 20 years down the line," said Heuer.

"Long term, this is a site that provides us with a lot of opportunity," he continued.

The impact that open enrollment has on the school district was discussed. It is estimated that the district loses about $1 million each year to students leaving the district to attend school elsewhere, Heuer explained.

"If you plot where the newer high schools are, it's competitive. Each student brings $4,600 to the district. We need kids in the door to make money," said Heuer.

One of the next hurdles the school district will face is approval from the Wright County Board.

The City of Winsted will need to annex the property, which is located in Wright County. The board will also need to grant a conditional use permit, because the property is zoned agricultural.

Another factor coming into play is that the property is not adjacent to Winsted's city limits.

Victor Township told the HLWW school district that it doesn't have a problem with the school being built there, said Heuer.

"Generally, in Wright County, if the township approves, planning and zoning will approve, and the county board will approve," said Heuer.

From a school board perspective, these points need to be emphasized, Heuer said:

· the school is needed.

· this is the best location.

· this location will have a positive effect on open enrollment numbers.

The offer by the City of Winsted to pay $500,000 for the installation of sewer and water lines was discussed. This offer is economically feasible for the city to handle as far as debt.

There are some negative factors with the Frank property next to Howard Lake, which lend support the school site being in Winsted, said Dave Sherman, a Winsted resident who has followed the school issue closely.

The infrastructure in Howard Lake would cost about $1 million more, and because of the lay of the land, a two-story building would have to be built, costing even more, Sherman said.

"We think it's a good trade-off. We think it's the most important thing to happen in the City of Winsted in the next century," said Sherman.

"We need to extend our hand to Howard Lake, knowing that they hurt. We would've felt bad too, if the decision had been made for Howard Lake," said Sherman.

"The issue we need to stress is that this is for the kids," said C&C member Dr. Jim Neff.

The C&C will work to promote community support for the Winsted site for the proposed school.

Promotional information about the school may be made available at C&C-sponsored events.

Business owners were encouraged to be good ambassadors for the school district, remembering to provide information, the school is for the students, and try to avoid unnecessary conflict.

Howard Lake council reacts to school site

By Lynda Jensen

Howard Lake City Council members expressed disappointment in the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school board's decision to choose a site near Winsted instead of Howard Lake.

Mayor Gerry Smith reiterated several points stressed earlier at school board meetings.

Smith noted that a survey sent to thousands of homes in the beginning of the site selection process showed that 40 percent of respondents thought the school should be in Howard Lake, at the heart of the district, and along the Highway 12 corridor where the growth occurs, Smith said.

The City of Howard Lake did not try to double tax its property owners in its efforts to keep the school either, Smith said, referring to Winsted's plans to levy $500,000, which will be given to the school district to supplement sewer pipe installation. The levy will be paid for by all the taxpayers in Winsted, whether they have children attending HLWW or no children at all, instead of by the HLWW district.

"No one has proved the Winsted site is right," he said. "It's up to the public to make their wishes known."

Smith warned the public that a bond referendum question may be worded deceptively, he said.

"It will say 'Will you give us permission for so many millions to build a school, but it will be put to the school to decide the location," Smith said.

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