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Three Whittier school proposers asked back for interview

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Three of the four groups with plans for Whittier Elementary school will be interviewed next week.

The Brainerd School District’s Whittier Task Force will give each person or group a chance to speak and answer questions.

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There is no set date on when the task force will pass its recommendation of which proposal to accept along to the school board, but task force members say they want it to be soon.

Whittier closed more than four years ago due to budget constraints. Since, the Whittier Task Force was formed to help bring life back into the building. Members put out a call for proposals on what the space could be used for.

The group met Wednesday morning to review how each of the four proposals scored in evaluations, which were done by the group and were based on three established criteria.

A proposal for a chemical dependency treatment program by Duane Halvorson was taken out of consideration after it placed last in a ranking system.

Here is how each scored out of a possible points total of 990:

● Northern Pines Mental Health Center — Whittier Elementary Community Center for Health and Wellness: 746.

● Laura Leckband and Richard Russell — The Brainerd Lakes Area Science and Technology Center: 464.

● North Side Neighborhood (prepared by Daniel Thornton) — North Side Community and Athletic Center: 333.

● Halvorson — chemical dependency treatment program: 173.

“There’s a lot of validity to the proposals, but there (are) still a lot of questions left,” said director of business services Steve Lund.

Task force members questioned if any of the North Side proposal’s activities would compete with the YMCA.

“It may not be an issue, but it’s a weakness for them because the YMCA already has facilities and staff,” said task force member Paul Bloom.

Task force member Sheila Haverkamp wondered about where the Northern Pines staff are located currently and if other spaces would be vacated if its proposal was chosen.

Steve Lund, director of business services for the district, suggested the BLAST idea may be too big for the space.

“It’s a great idea, but I think what she’s trying to do is get her idea to fit in that building. ...I’m not sure if the building and her idea, if that’s the best fit.”

Lund said as Leckband and Russell investigate costs in getting the air quality to museum standards, the price tag might be overwhelming.

Task force members tossed around the idea of temporarily accepting one proposal, but on the condition that should the group not accomplish a set of goals by a certain date, another proposal could be taken instead.

Bloom said there’s a risk of the other proposers walking away.

Some task force members were concerned that once a proposal is chosen, the school would have no say in what happens to the building in the future.

Other members suggested a combination of the Northern Pines and North Side proposals might be beneficial because of the similarities between the two.

Superintendent Steve Razidlo said that while there are similarities, the differences are big and may not pass the school board well.

Task member Jeff Torfin said he thinks the Northern Pines proposal is the strongest financially.

“It looked like a problem wouldn’t come back up after a year,” he said.

That’s because Northern Pines is the only proposal with an existing facility and customer base, Haverkamp said. The others are concepts that would start from scratch.

The interviews will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Washington Educational Services Building, 804 Oak St., room 109.

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at jessica.larsen@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

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