The Brainerd School District building committee Tuesday decided to not pursue the purchase of two homes near the Washington Middle School building, part of a long-term plan to develop additional parking near the building.
The homes, which the district has been looking at purchasing for nearly a decade, are at 606 S. Eighth St. and 602 and 602 1/2 S. Eighth St.
If the district bought the properties it would have secured one-quarter of the block and built a parking lot, said Brainerd Community Education Director Paul Bloom.
While board members felt the land would be an asset to the district, which plans to use Washington as the district's headquarters, they decided it was a bad time for the district to make such a purchase due to its projected $3 million budget deficit.
The property at 606 S. Eighth St. has an appraised value of $110,000 while the adjacent property at 602 1/2 S. Eighth St. was appraised at $89,000. Purchasing the property, in addition to demolishing the buildings and paving the lot, would cost about $250,000 for the 50 or so parking spaces it would create.
Bloom said when Washington becomes the district's educational services building this spring, it will be used as a school training center, which will mean on any given day about 100 people could be using the building. Washington will have about 50 district staff members working there and an unknown number of renters using the building if the district leases third-floor space to non-profit organizations. The Fun 'N' Friends after-school program will operate out of Washington. The parking lot also would be used when events are held at Tornstrom Auditorium.
"I wish we could buy them, I really wish we could," said board member Bob Nystrom. "I think what I'm hearing from the community is outrage at the amount of property tax increases. ... We need to send a message to the community we're going to tighten our belts."
"I don't have any dispute with what the (parking) need is," said board chair Bernie Roberts. He added that community members probably couldn't fathom the district spending $5,000 per parking stall during the district's current financial situation.
"I think that it is shocking to people when we're talking about cutting positions and programs," said Roberts.
"It's something we need to pursue but this isn't the right situation," added board member Kent Montgomery.
The committee will recommend that the board not purchase the property and notify the property owner of the decision with regret.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.