Just when it seemed that all the dust had settled over what to do with the former Ringsted School building, a whirlwind kicked up again Monday night.
The Armstrong-Ringsted Board of Education had approved first reading of a resolution a month ago to sell the building to Michael Sjoblom who would demolish it, saving district taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in demolition fees.
It was also revealed Monday night that Sjoblom had made the offer this past May or June, just about the time the Save the Ringsted School group was forming. Apparently the A-R Board of Education wanted to allow all parties to the table with whatever proposals they could make. And there were a lot, even one presentation from the Aquapons company, a group proposing a combination fish Farm/hydroponic gardening complex, that filled the Ringsted Community center. Four people stepped up to the microphone Monday night, with plans ranging from paying the district $5,000 for the building to asking for time before proceeding with demolition.
However, as Alan Madden, Emmet County supervisor, Ringsted businessman and spokesperson for Save the Ringsted School, said, if the district had extended until October 2013 the deadline for demolishing the school, that would not have been time enough.
When does a large building turn from an asset into a liability? That was the key question with which the board grappled in making its decision.
The Estherville Lincoln Central Board of Education grappled with the same exact question a few years ago - only then the building was the former Lincoln School. One party even stepped forward then and laid $22,500 on the table for the building - but could not guarantee a timetable for renovating it. So the ELC Board decided to raze Lincoln and let the city put up a park instead. And now it's the busiest playground in Estherville.
It's hard seeing the place where you went to school be torn down. It's like losing a part of yourself.
Schools, and other institutions, are those touchstones of memory that assure us that something of the physical past yet remains - the place where a child learned to read, made his first basket or snuck a prom-night kiss.
As more than one A-R Board member said, though, the harsh reality is that emotion needs to be divorced from reality when it comes to making a good decision for the district.
The A-R Board made a tough decision Monday night, one that at the very least is going to save the district several hundred thousand dollars in demolition costs.
Could the building have been put to use in the future?
Did anyone step forward with a viable plan to take over the building?
That's why the board made the right decision.