SE City Council supports Orchid Inn project

SLEEPY EYE — The Sleepy Eye City Council unanimously approved a resolution for a letter of support for a project that would convert the former Orchid Inn to a school providing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) experiences and focus on agriculture Feb. 1.

Proposed by AGlobal Education and the Elite Language Immersion Institute, the former establishment would use project-based learning with labs with an agriculture focus for southern Minnesota students and teachers plus feature language immersion.

Sleepy Eye City Manager Mark Kober said he visited with Minnesota Department of Education Assistant Commissioner Elia Bruggeman about the project at length last week.

“I’ve heard community comments about migrant housing and that’s not what this (project) is designed for,” Kober said. “It would be for affluent kids from overseas who come to the United States to learn about agriculture. It would involve schools in Faribault, Owatonna, Worthington, Marshall and the like.”

Kober said the project would do its own fund-raising with agricultural companies for a $3.5 million project to renovate the property.

Mayor Wayne Pelzel said no money is sought for the project from the City of Sleepy Eye. In addition, he said the City has about $250,000 invested in Orchid Inn mortgages.

“The hope would be that eventually, the City could get that money back,” Pelzel said.

Kober said the property has not generated property tax for three years, but the City Council could choose to recoup the original investment if property tax was abated properly.

Pelzel said the school would include up to 80 students at a time.

Kober said the school’s students would come for 30 days at a time initially, with plans to later come for a semester.

The City Council sees many potential benefits to Sleepy Eye from the use of the proposed institution. They include, but are not limited to, strengthening workforce development of jobs in agriculture and STEM fields, positioning Sleepy Eye as a regional leader, elevating and enhancing it as a place for cultural exchange and learning, potential job creation, facilitating visitors which brings business to local eateries, gas stations and retail stores, and increasing the tax base.

In addition, the proposal would refresh and renew the appearance of the building that formerly housed the Orchid Inn.

The Sleepy Eye Economic Development Authority (EDA) further supports AGlobal’s efforts of gaining additional grants and resources for the proposal.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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