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W’bago concerned over takeover date

By Staff | Jun 23, 2019

Concerns regarding the actual date of when the city of Winnebago can take over and begin renovating the former Winnebago school building dominated the discussion at a special work session of the Winnebago City Council held on Monday night, June 17.

The council, along with representatives of the Center for Education Development of Winnebago (CED) expressed frustration at not being able to get started with making improvements immediately.

“Where we are at right now is an impossible situation to be able to get in and do anything,” CED member Renee Doyle said.

The purchase agreement allows the current tenant, Southern Plains Education Cooperative, to stay in the building until Nov. 1. SPEC can extend their lease up to 240 days past Nov. 1 if construction on their new building in Fairmont is not complete. The council will contact SPEC and get a progress report on their new construction.

Annie Leibel, the Winnebago EDA specialist, informed the group that deputy city clerk Jessi Sturtz and Leibel are planning to set up a meeting with incoming Blue Earth Area superintendent Mandy Fletcher after she officially begins her job on July 1.

“We want to meet with her and see if we can get some of these questions answered,” Leibel commented.

One of the issues which will need to be dealt with soon is whether BEA wants to use the gymnasium in Winnebago during the next school year and whether the council wants to let them use it.

“I got a call again (from the BEA School), and they want to set their schedule, and we don’t have any answers,” Mayor Jeremiah Schutt remarked.

Some in the assembled group felt BEA had been difficult to work with and were not interested in allowing them to use the facility for gymnastics.

“I would personally like to change that between the school and us,” Sturtz offered. “At some point we need to develop a good working relationship with everybody. We have a new superintendent, I graduated with Mandy, we got along and I think we should at least try to have a good relationship.”

The ability to begin raising money immediately is very important for the transition to go smoothly.

“If we do have the gymnastics in the school, and we have to take the school over on Nov. 1, then we have zero ability to raise any money,” Doyle remarked. “The gym is the community ed piece and we could have fundraisers, concerts, smorgasbords and we could do walking in there and all these things to raise money.”

“If we took over the school on Nov. 1, we could probably get vocational classes started by the spring,” mentioned Bob Weerts, a CED member.

Discussion on how to be able to run a day-care in the old school raised some possible obstacles. A private day care provider would lose some tax incentives by moving into the school and there are also problems in running a day-care center out of the building.

Minnesota District 23A Representative Bob Gunther also attended the meeting and offered his input.

“I will find out the difference in regulations between a center and home-based day care,” Gunther volunteered. “I will also find out where the grants are because there are a substantial number of grants available. For instance, U.S. Rural Development supplied all the fixtures for Little Giants in Blue Earth.”

Moving on to other matters, Doyle reported CED should have its non-profit status by the end of the summer.

“The branding, business cards and a logo, is in process and being designed for CED,” Doyle shared. “As soon as we have our brand and everything, we will start to put information out and publicize who we are.”

Another meeting will be scheduled after members of the group have had a chance to visit with Fletcher.