CLARKFIELD — City Council members in Clarkfield are holding a special meeting at 3 p.m. Friday in response to a citizen petition asking them to reconsider the decision to demolish the former school gymnasium.
City Council members on Jan. 2 had voted 4-1 to demolish the gymnasium. By an identical vote Jan. 7, the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners also approved the demolition. Frattalone Construction of Inver Grove Heights has completed the demolition of the other school buildings, and requested a decision on the gymnasium while it remained on site.
City Administrator Amanda Luepke said it is not clear whether the city could reverse course at this point, or whether there are the votes on the council to do so. The county and city have approved an agreement with the contractor for the additional demolition. She said citizens looking to save the gymnasium were planning to bring the petition they are circulating in the community to the City Hall on Thursday.
Yellow Medicine County is going ahead with an auction scheduled Saturday for items being salvaged from the gymnasium, according to Janel Timm, property and public services director for Yellow Medicine County. A number of items have already been removed to be placed for sale, including the maple wood boards from its bleachers.
The city had intended to spare the west gymnasium from the wrecking ball and sell it to Kendra Lindblad, owner of the Redemption Basketball Academy. Council members learned at year’s end that she has been charged with felony sexual misconduct in South Dakota, and that led to the recent decision to also demolish the gymnasium. At the Jan. 2 meeting, council members indicated that they did not want the city to be responsible for the gymnasium and its upkeep. At their meeting, the county commissioners said they did not want the county to be responsible for its upkeep either.
The recent petition is just part of the turmoil the gymnasium has generated in the community. The city of Clarkfield and Yellow Medicine County have a memorandum of understanding to evenly split the costs for the school demolition project, which are currently calculated at about $1 million.
Attorney Kevin Stroup and citizens he represents told council members at their Jan. 7 meeting that the city is not obligated to pay one-half the costs, and should not do so. He provided a letter putting the city on notice that the citizens intended to file a lawsuit if the city proceeds to pay toward the demolition costs.
While there is a memorandum of understanding, there is no contract obligating the city, the attorney said. He told the West Central Tribune he has no idea why the city would pay toward removal costs they do not have to pay. The school property is tax-forfeited, and as a result is owned by the state but the county is custodian for it under state law.
The city has sold bonds for the estimated city share of the demolition costs, $503,000. The city administrator said those funds have recently been placed in a bank.