Brainerd City Council: Council approves boarding school permit
The Brainerd City Council Monday night approved a conditional use permit for a proposed boarding school to move into a vacant hotel site. Headley Williamson, chair of the board of directors of Exodus Boys Academy, wants to renovate the vacant for...
The Brainerd City Council Monday night approved a conditional use permit for a proposed boarding school to move into a vacant hotel site.
Headley Williamson, chair of the board of directors of Exodus Boys Academy, wants to renovate the vacant former Brainerd Hotel and Conference Center into a boarding school for boys. The property is located at 2115 South Sixth St. There's no physical Exodus Boys Academy yet and the plan is for the school to open in fall of 2018.
The council in April adopted an ordinance to allow boarding schools as a conditional use in B-4 general commercial districts in the city. The motel property is in a B-4 district.
The school is using an aggressive schedule in order to be ready to open in the fall of 2018, Williamson said. The school needs a building before it can be accredited, he said, and can open in the fall of 2018 if everything falls into place.
"I'm a man of faith," Williamson said. "It'll all fall into place, one way or the other."
The council's decision Monday night will directly affect the pending purchase agreement, Williamson said. If the conditional use permit were not approved Monday, the agreement would have been voided, he said, requiring him to go back into negotiations with the property owner.
Kevin Donnay, architect with Widseth Smith Nolting, said the improvements needed for the building don't include heavy construction. Much of the existing damage has been caused by roof leaks, he said, so once the roof is replaced, interior renovations can begin. The concrete building is stout and well-built, he said.
"It's certainly doable if things fall into place, that we trust the process," Donnay said.
There's always a concern about if students will behave, Williamson said. The school will employ local residents, he said, so the Brainerd lakes area will select the students. There's already a vision in mind of the type of person who will be the school director.
"We want that tough mama, you know, the battle-ax mama, to run the school," Williamson said. "So that those kids behave themselves."
The school will be conservative when it comes to taking in students with emotional or academic issues, Williamson said, and there would be academic testing and psychological evaluations during the application process. Ultimately, he said he would like to open these schools across the country.
"This nation is going in the wrong direction as far as fathers are concerned," Williamson said. "All the problems are caused because daddies are not standing up."
Williamson, from Eagan, previously said he's motivated to start the school in order to help boys from fatherless homes. He used to come up to the Brainerd lakes area during the summer, and his first experience reading the Bible was at Pequot Lakes Baptist Church.
For the first year, the plan is to have grades 6-8, with 20 students in each grade. The school would then add one grade and 20 students per year, until the school serves grades 6-12.
Some of the rooms in the hotel would be converted to classrooms, computer labs or study halls, while the others would remain as rooms for the students and staff. The plan is for the school to run year-round.
The permit was approved on a 6-1 vote, with council president Dave Pritschet voting against the motion. Pritschet said he voted against the motion because he would have liked to ask city Attorney Joe Langel about if conduct on premises language, like in the city rental dwelling license code, could be applied for a conditional use permit. Council member Gabe Johnson said the pending purchase agreement falling through if a decision was not made Monday night had no bearing on his decision to support the conditional use permit.
The planning commission on June 21 held a public hearing about the application before recommending its approval.
According to information submitted by Williamson, live-in school staff and a resident director will stay overnight at the school. The school will be accredited through the Association of Christian Schools International and will be a member of the Association of Christian Schools of Minnesota.
In order to accommodate the school's needs, the pool area will be changed into a gym. The second floor west wing of rooms will be turned into classrooms and the conference area will be turned into a multi-use common space. The parking and tennis court area in the northwest corner of the lot will be converted into a playing field.
There will be a total of 10 classrooms and a large recreation room. The attached restaurant will be contracted out or sold to someone who will manage it and cater breakfast, lunch and dinner for the students.
The school has contracted WSN to provide architectural and engineering services. According to a report from WSN, the building was built in 1970 as a Holiday Inn. The report recommends the entire roof be replaced, along with other improvements and upgrades. An elevator will also be added to the building.
All the building plans depend on fundraising efforts. The school has hired Nonprofit-360 Consulting to create a donor development program. Williamson provided an outline of the strategy:
• Phase 1: May-July. Ask friends, family and concerned citizens to donate $100-$1,000, which will raise $40,000-$70,000.
• Phase 2: July-September. Use funds from phase 1 to hire a grant writer and create new video and presentation materials. This will allow the school to raise $1 million from government grants, corporate and family foundations.
• Phase 3: September onward. Use funds from phase 2 to buy the building and solicit national foundations to raise $20 million.
Williamson provided a draft of the student handbook as a work in progress example of the education program. The handbook includes the school's statement of faith, which states the school is an interdimensional, evangelical Christian boarding school focused on giving young men a holistic education with a God-centered perspective. The school believes marriage is between one man and one woman, sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful, and human life begins at conception. The school will require staff members to live in agreement with the school's statements of faith.
The school's board of directors will hire the director of academics and director of residence, obtain a facility and funding required to operate the school for 5 years before opening the school.
In other business, the council:
Received a Showcasing Brainerd presentation from Scott Lykins, founding artistic director of the Lakes Area Music Festival, and John Taylor Ward, founding artistic director. The festival presents free classical music concerts in the Brainerd lakes area, and its ninth annual season runs from July 30-Aug. 20.
Lykins and Ward updated council members on the festival office's impending move from the Franklin Arts Center to a recently renovated building on Laurel Street in downtown Brainerd. As a Brainerd High School graduate, Lykins said he's proud to be able to bring high-quality arts programming to his hometown each summer.
Approved new contractor licenses for Dow Acoustics, Detroit Lakes; Ostrowski Concrete Concepts LLC, Brainerd; Kordiak Plumbing and HVAC LLC, Pine River; and Hagemeier Excavating LLC, Albany.
Received a written report from Fire Chief Tim Holmes on the department's activity for the month of June. The department received 39 calls for service during the month, with six of those calls canceled enroute. Of those 39 calls, 21 were within the city of Brainerd.
Approved a temporary 3.2 percent beer on-sale license application submitted by the Brainerd Jaycees for an event July 7-9 in Memorial Park.
Approved a temporary on-sale liquor license application submitted by the Brainerd Jaycees for an event July 28-29 in downtown Brainerd.
Approved an on-sale liquor license transfer from Shirley Schroeml, Ninth Street Bar, to Robert Lewis, Ninth Street Social Club. The transfer is subject to background investigation, fire inspection and satisfaction of all city code requirements.
Called for applicants for one term on the Charter Commission and one term on the Transportation Advisory Committee.
Approved a street closure application submitted by Lakes Area Catholic Churches for a rosary procession 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 12. The procession will go from St. Francis Catholic Church to St. Andrew's Catholic Church and will use Juniper, North Eighth, South Eighth, South Ninth and Willow streets.
Authorized the purchase and installation of a new outdoor warning siren to replace the outdated siren at the intersection of H Street Northeast and Seventh Avenue Northeast. The new siren will increase the coverage area and is included in the 2017 capital improvement budget. The cost and installation of the siren should not exceed $20,000.
Held the first reading of an ordinance amending city code section 1205 regulating the issuance of 3.2 percent beer licenses. The ordinance amends the code to state the age to purchase, consume, sell or possess 3.2 percent beer is 21 years old. The current code uses 19 years old as the eligible age and does not reflect state law, which is 21 years old.
Approved a contractor payment to Short Elliott Hendrickson for engineering work through May 31 on the Brainerd Lakes Area Regional Airport utility extension project in the amount of $29,804.
Approved a contractor payment to Tri-City Paving for work on the Jackson Street resurfacing project through June 2 in the amount of $70,842.
Approved a contractor payment to Tri-City Paving for work on the Oak Street mill and overlay project through June 23 in the amount of $107,844