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Clarkfield wants to save gym; asbestos removal to add $352,500 to demo of school buildings

CLARKFIELD -- Clarkfield City Council members have decided they want to save the west gymnasium of the community's former school complex in the interest of community development, but the city and Yellow Medicine County still have difficult decisi...

Tom Cherveny / TribuneClarkfield City Council members will decide whether to save the west gymnasium of the former school facilities in the community. Doing so will be more expensive than awarding a bid to remove all of the school buildings, but a potential buyer has stepped forward in hopes of using the facility as a home for the Redemption Basketball Academy.
Tom Cherveny / Tribune Clarkfield City Council members voted to save the west gymnasium of the former school facilities in the community.

CLARKFIELD - Clarkfield City Council members have decided they want to save the west gymnasium of the community's former school complex in the interest of community development, but the city and Yellow Medicine County still have difficult decisions to make.

They face higher-than-expected costs in removing the remaining buildings due to the amount of asbestos found in them.

A newly completed analysis by the Institute for Environmental Assessment of Marshall estimates that it will cost $352,500 to remove the asbestos. That cost will be in addition to the costs for demolishing the buildings, which include a former elementary school, and the junior and senior high schools. The city and county are proceeding with the intent of awarding a $499,100 bid by Frattalone Companies Inc., Inver Grove Heights, to remove all of the remaining school structures.

The county and city agreed previously to split the costs for removing the buildings. They had been owned by two brothers from Iceland who lived in them with their families until they abruptly left in December 2014. With the exception of the west gymnasium, the school buildings are mold-infested and have suffered major water damage.

The city is hoping to save the gymnasium, with an eye toward selling it to Kendra Lindblad of Dawson, owner of the Redemption Basketball Academy. She is interested in purchasing the structure to offer her academy and fitness programs there.

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Yellow Medicine County is currently exploring how the west gymnasium can be transferred to Lindblad. The school properties are tax forfeited, making them state property that must be managed by the county. It's believed that the city of Clarkfield has the first right to purchase the tax forfeited property, according to Angie Steinback, county administrator.

One option being explored is for the city to purchase the gymnasium with the intent of selling it to Lindblad. If the city does not pursue that option, the property would likely have to be placed for sale at a public auction, which means Lindblad could face competition for it.

It's believed the building will need a new roof in a few years time. The county previously received a back-of-envelope estimate of $80,000 from a contractor for a new roof, according to information presented earlier to council members.

City council members met on Monday and voted three-to-two in favor of the bid by Frattelone for demolition since it would save the gymnasium, according to Amanda Luepke, city administrator. The other option would be to award a $474,860 bid by Landwehr Construction of St. Cloud for demolition of all the buildings.

The Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners took up the matter at a meeting on Tuesday, and voted four-to-one in favor of proceeding to award the bid by Frattelone to spare the gymnasium.

Both entities now are also exploring how to finance the demolition. At one point the county and city had asked the legislature for state funds to help with those costs, but had no success.

The city of Clarkfield intends to sell a 15-year bond issue for its share of the costs. It was estimated that a bond to cover the costs of the demolition would add anywhere from $75 to $125 per year on property taxes for a $100,000 home.

A proposal to possibly use tax increment financing to help retire the costs for demolition was explored, but found to not be viable.

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Yellow Medicine County is looking at whether to tap reserve funds, sell bonds, or possibly increase its levy to make up for an expenditure from its budget.

Tom Cherveny / TribuneYellow Medicine County and the city of Clarkfield will be splitting the costs of removing the former elementary, junior and senior high school facilities. They are mold-infested and have extensive water damage.
Tom Cherveny / Tribune Yellow Medicine County and the city of Clarkfield will be splitting the costs of removing the former elementary, junior and senior high school facilities. A recent analysis has raised the costs by estimating $352,500 will be required to remove asbestos.

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