City to discuss idea of Whittier school
City leaders will further discuss the possibility of acquiring the Whittier school building.
The Brainerd City Council made the decision at its meeting Monday. Voting against the motion were council members Mary Koep and Kelly Bevans.
The topic will go before the Safety and Public Works Committee for more discussion into options and ideas for the building. Those ideas will be brought back as a recommendation to the whole council in March.
The Brainerd School District recently decided to ask both the city and Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center if either were interested in acquiring the Whittier building.
The move came after the future of the old school building was again left unknown following a November Brainerd City Council meeting where the council voted against a proposed amendment that would have allowed community centers in residentially zoned districts. The move was largely because neighborhood residents spoke out against it.
The school board initially gave the nod to Northern Pines Mental Health Center to repurpose the old Whittier school building into the Whittier Elementary Community Center for Health and Wellness. But before Northern Pines could move forward with plans, the city of Brainerd needed to look into how to rezone the north Brainerd property, which is located in a residential district.
“As much as we respect the authority of and action by the city of Brainerd in not allowing a community center as a conditional use in a residential district, it leave fewer options for the future of this facility,” read a letter to the city from Superintendent Steve Razidlo.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, not everyone thought the discussion to keep talking about Whittier was a good idea.
City council member Mary Koep said the city should “tell the district ‘no’ and get the misery over with.”
Koep said the city doesn’t have the money to buy or maintain the building.
City council member Chip Borkenhagen said he was interested in the idea of possibly moving the Parks and Recreation Department into the school building.
City council member Dave Pritschet said that in the end, Whittier wasn’t just a school problem or a city problem.
“Our money is going into it (through taxes). It’s everyone’s problem,” he said.
Essentia Health officials met with school leaders last week. Superintendent Steve Razidlo said Essentia officials will take time to consider the offer.
The school board voted previously that should both say they aren’t interested, they will advertise the building as being for sale, which it hasn’t done yet.
But they won’t advertise it very long, as the bills for the building are proving costly to the district.
Since 2008, the building has been vacant and has racked up $200,000 in heating and maintenance costs. In about eight years, the building will need a new roof at an estimated cost of $120,000, said Earl Wolleat, director of buildings and grounds for the district.