City approves discussion with School District about Garfield School
WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council has authorized city staff to enter into discussions with the Willmar School District about the future of the Garfield School building, including possible acquisition of the property by the city.
The school district has indicated an interest in disposing of the building at 512 Eighth St. S.W. and the adjoining property, reported council member Jim Dokken during a report from the council's Community Development Committee.
Dokken reported the city was informally approached by the district to determine whether or not the city was interested in acquiring the property.
He reported that city staff was seeking permission to enter into discussions about possibly acquiring the property.
It was noted that there are no plans in the works yet and that every option is on the table.
The Garfield issue had been raised at the committee's April 15 meeting. The committee recommended the council authorize the discussions, and the council approved that recommendation Monday night.
City Administrator Michael Schmit said he was responding to a request from School Superintendent Dr. Jerry Kjergaard.
In an interview Tuesday, Kjergaard said he and Schmit have been informally talking about Garfield School for three to four months. Kjergaard said the district is trying to narrow its facilities down to what is needed. Of the Washington, Lincoln and Garfield buildings, the district would like to get rid of two.
Washington is located at 325 Willmar Ave. S.W., and Lincoln is located at 511 Julii St. S.E.
Kjergaard said there is no deadline for a decision. A purchase price would be negotiated, he said. Garfield houses the Area Learning Center. If the district disposes of Garfield, the Area Learning Center would move to Lincoln, he said.
In an interview Tuesday, Schmit said the question is: Does the city want to maintain the entire two-block Garfield site as a public purpose? If the city does not intervene, one of the district's options might be to sell to someone in the private sector who might want to build homes there.
The Community Development Committee discussed whether the property should remain in the public domain, Schmit said.
"I don't think that the city has any preconceived ideas other than it already exists as a major park and playground and open space in the heart of the city, and is that the highest and best use?'' he said. "So that's really from our perspective how we're going to approach this. Whatever happens to the building remains to be seen.''
At some point, the council would invite public comment, he said.