By Ivan Raconteur
HOWARD LAKE, MN Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) School District and the City of Howard Lake are working together to determine the best possible use for the former middle school site in Howard Lake.
An informational meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 14 during which city and school representatives will present background information and explain what they hope to accomplish.
This will also be an opportunity for members of the public to share their ideas regarding what they would like to see done with the site.
“We want to make sure everyone’s voice is heard,” Howard Lake City Administrator Nick Haggenmiller said.
HLWW Superintendent Brad Sellner explained that since the middle school moved out to the high school site, the district determined there is no longer a school purpose for the remaining portion of the former middle school property.
Haggenmiller said from the time that the referendum was passed and activity began at the centralized site, people have been asking him, as well as Sellner, school board members, and city council members, what’s going to happen with that property.
“Up until now, we haven’t had a good answer for them, and we never really had a plan . . . right now we’re looking at a really good opportunity to do something we really haven’t done before as a city and as a school, to work together on basically enhancing that area into something else.”
A few months ago, Haggenmiller noted, the intergovernmental committee, which includes school board and city council members, met and discussed future uses for the property.
Through that discussion, a park plan emerged as a possible solution.
The school met with students in May, and asked them what they want in terms of recreational amenities.
The suggestions ranged from park benches to a large-scale water park, Sellner noted.
Now, the committee wants to open it up to the broader community and get input regarding what people think could or should be done with the site, Haggenmiller said.
The end product of this process, he noted, is a plan that the city and the school district (which owns the site) can agree upon.
“We’re looking at creating a plan that’s not going to raise taxes . . . we want to work within the means accessible to us right now, not eliminating the opportunity for other groups or organizations to get involved, as well,” Sellner said.
Haggenmiller agreed, noting that projects can be done without raising taxes. He said the city has done a lot of work at Lions Park in recent years, totalling about $70,000 in improvements, but only a very small amount of that, about $3,000, has come from general tax dollars.
He explained the city has been able to leverage a lot of grant funds from state and local resources.
He said the city has also received assistance from the Maple Lake Lions Club, which handles local gambling proceeds, generous donations from the Howard Lake Lions, and has utilized in-kind labor and volunteers to help reduce the cost of improvements.
Haggenmiller noted the city council and school board have both said they have a lot of priorities and “can’t break the bank to do this project.”
Haggenmiller said that, although this site will be an important place for children, the goal is broader.
“We want this to be multi-generational, we want it to be used year-round, and by all our residents,” Haggenmiller said.
He also noted that the site is located in an under-served portion of the community with respect to existing city parks.