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Willmar School Board OKs sale of Washington building for $525,000

WILLMAR -- The Willmar School District is on the road to selling one of its empty school buildings.

The School Board voted on Monday to approve a purchase agreement with Bristlecone LLC of Minneapolis to sell the Washington Learning Center building for $525,000.

Willmar real estate agent Doug Fenstra, who represents the school district, referred to the buyer as a group of developers. He said he doesn't represent them and doesn't know exactly what Bristlecone will be doing with the property.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said the buyer is still working out the financing for the purchase. Closing is scheduled to take place on or before Nov. 30.

In an addendum to the purchase agreement, Bristlecone has agreed to pay $95,000 in earnest money on top of the $5,000 paid initially. The $100,000 in earnest money will be forfeited if the sale does not go through.

The buyers will also need to have the city approve a rezoning of the land, which is now zoned for government uses.

Fenstra said he will work with the buyer so that all contingencies can be removed from the sale by Nov. 1.

The School District will need to remove the remaining asbestos from the interior and exterior of the building before the sale is final. The board approved an $80,000 contract for the work on Monday.

"So if they change their minds or can't get financing, they've paid for removal of the asbestos," said board member Wayne Lenzmeier.

The Washington building is on Willmar Avenue a half block west of the intersection with First Street.

Until a year ago, it was the home of the Willmar Community Education and Recreation Department. It housed a variety of early childhood and adult education programs.

In a reorganization of the district a year ago, Community Education and Recreation moved to the former Jefferson Elementary School. Jefferson had closed when the district consolidated its elementary schools into the two largest buildings.

The Lincoln Elementary School in southeast Willmar will be the district's only vacant building if the Washington sale is completed.

This is the second purchase agreement the board has approved on the Washington building. In August 2009, the board accepted an offer of $400,000 from Royal Investments Group of Spicer. That sale was not completed.

Several years ago, Affiliated Community Medical Centers expressed interest in purchasing the building at some time. Affiliated's main clinic is located just to the east of the Washington building. The board has not publicly discussed an offer from the clinic.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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