ARMSTRONG - The Armstrong-Ringsted Board of Education - after hearing from a number of parties in a half-hour public hearing - Monday night approved selling the former Ringsted School building.
Under the agreement, the district will be responsible for asbestos abatement. The district will also be able to remove all heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment.
Michael Sjoblom, the buyer, will be responsible for tearing down the building and the district will provide a warranty deed with closing within 90 days.
Approval came only after an earlier public hearing and board discussion.
First to speak was Alan Madden, speaking for the Citizens to Save the Ringsted School. Madden also owns a business in Ringsted and is an Emmet County supervisor.
"We always looked at this as an economic asset to the community of Ringsted and the economy of Armstrong as far as that goes," said Madden. Madden noted that over the years various school boards have done a good job of maintaining the building and that the building designers "had some vision" in constructing a building that would be viable for a long time.
"We tried to treat this as an economic development project," Madden said. "We really thought that that was an economic development opportunity for the community of Ringsted. I don't think we were totally successful in convincing everybody that it was for the economic development of the community of Ringsted. We just did not have enough time. We kept our goals of accomplishing something as fast as we could."
Madden said the committee's goal coming up with a plan for the building even by October 2013 "was not practical."
"The only gift we were asking from you folks was the gift of time. And we're still asking for that," Madden said. "We have not disbanded our group. We're still motivated to do something for the community of Ringsted and the surrounding community."
David Griese of Bumble Bee Excavating offered $5,000 for the building - if given the same terms as Sjoblom.
Another party expressing interest in saving the building - but making no specific proposal to the board - was Mike Flannegan of Emmetsburg.
A fourth party, contractor Steve Moore, said he, too, was interested in saving the building and that he had the ability to renovate it.
After the public hearing the board discussed disposition of the building.
"I'm proud of the way the board had handled this," said Jim Boyer, board president, retracing the history of the board's attempts to transfer the building to a responsible party. "This is something we've been dealing with for quite some time."
However, Boyer said economics had to be a key factor in the board's decision.
"As a district, we know we'll never use that building again," said Boyer, noting it would cost the district $3,000 a month just to own it.
Boyer said Sjoblom had initially made his offer this past May or June but that the board had been asked to hold on to the building for another year.
"We always wanted to do what was right for the school and what was right for the community and I think this is the best option," Boyer said. He said the district had also offered the building to the City of Ringsted but that the council had realized it was responsible to taxpayers.
While the board had received other offers Monday night, said Boyer, "We did what was our legal responsibility as far as the disposition of a public building."
Board member Jen Von Bank, noting Ringsted was her hometown and that she had gone to school there, said, "Maintaining that building for another year is not viable." Von Bank said she had to look at the interests of the district.
After the resolution to sell the building was read, Superintendent Matt Berninghaus entertained a motion to approve transferring the building to Sjoblom.
Von Bank moved for the transfer, and the board approved.