City Council approves Garfield condition report
WILLMAR -- A local architectural firm will prepare a report for the Willmar City Council on the condition of the Garfield School building. The council voted last week to request the $3,000 report by Engan Associates.
The report will give the council and officials an idea of what the city could expect in costs associated with possible renovation of the building for office use if the council decides to acquire the building from the Willmar School District.
Earlier this year, the district asked if the city is interested in acquiring the Garfield building and property -- located at 512 Eighth St. S.W.
The city's Finance Committee toured the Garfield School on June 28. The committee recently directed City Administrator Michael Schmit to research architectural services for minimal cost.
Possible uses for the Garfield property include city offices or demolishing the building to create green space.
Garfield currently houses the school district's Area Learning Center. The district would move the ALC to Lincoln School if the city acquired Garfield, Schmit said. He said the district will pursue other possibilities if the city is not interested in acquiring Garfield.
In an interview conducted this spring, Willmar Schools Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard told the Tribune that the school district is trying to narrow its facilities down to what is needed.
There is a purchase agreement in place for the Washington School building at 325 Willmar Ave. S.W., and the district hopes to sell either the Garfield School or Lincoln School. Lincoln is located at 511 Julii St. S.E.
Schmit said the school district is proposing to deed Garfield to the city in exchange for credit toward construction costs of the new street behind Roosevelt Elementary School. A new road and bus parking area were built to help relieve congestion, and the school district is to pay the city for the project.
Tuesday night, Schmit presented to the council the Engan Associates' proposal for evaluating the Garfield building.
"It would be easy if we were talking about two blocks of vacant park land. I brought up the idea for possible office use. I told Engan he is not to view this in the context of a city office building," said Schmit.
"Up to this point I have not received those vibes that there's enthusiasm for that kind of project. What do we do with the building? This will give us an idea if there are other possible uses or not. The $3,000 is a reasonable cost to arrive at that determination and then we can answer the (district's) question," he said.
"If the council is interested in the property, this would be a wise and prudent step,'' said Denis Anderson who offered the motion, seconded by Doug Reese, to approve the Engan proposal.
Steve Ahmann asked if the council wants to move from downtown. The departure of the city assessing office will free up more space in the city office building, he said.
Ron Christianson said he was trying to figure out what is best for the city and asked if owning the building is in the city's best interest. "We sure could use owning the park area,'' he said.
Jim Dokken agreed green space is at a premium. He asked where parking would be provided if the building continues in public use. "I'm not sure it's a wise investment at this time,'' he said.
Mayor Les Heitke said the neighborhood values the grounds and he said there is community interest in historic preservation. He said the option of demolishing the building and retaining the land will need a thorough explanation "because there will be many citizens I think who do not want to see the building demolished.''