NEW ULM - The District 88 Board of Education approved a resolution Thursday inviting sealed bids for the potential sale of the former middle school.
The resolution provides for either an outright sale, or a sale arrangement that would allow the district to continue use of the building's auditorium for up to 10 years.
The document also specifies that a potential closing would happen no sooner than Oct. 1, to allow moving school and other operations out of the building.
It also lists the district's right to reject any bids.
The building is located at 15 N. State.
One board member, Patricia Hoffman, voted against the resolution. She urged the board to also consider, in addition to the two bid alternatives that ultimately passed, the possibility for some kind of a cooperative agreement that would allow the district to continue using office space.
Hoffman suggested she would not want the public to criticize the board for selling the building "for a pittance," then turning around and renting office space elsewhere.
Other board members, however, spoke against attaching too many conditions to a potential sale, thus discouraging bidders.
"The building is a money pit," said Carol Ackerson, arguing this position.
In addition, board member Susan Nierengarten said that if the bid specifications include a reference to office space, this space should be clearly defined (e.g. in terms of square footage), to enable a buyer to make a specific enough offer.
Superintendent Harold Remme outlined the history and current uses of the building and possible options for replacing the auditorium, offices, warehouse space, and space currently rented out to community groups or used by Community Education.
Proceeding to discuss the reasons to seek a sale, Remme pointed out that these uses notwithstanding, only 20 percent of the building is in productive use.
If the district keeps the building, it would need to invest capital dollars on future maintenance: roofing, electrical, plumbing, tuckpointing, fire protection, asbestos removal and handicapped accessibility work, added Remme.
If sold, the building would return to the tax rolls, added Remme.
Two groups have expressed interest in a sale, said officials.
The board agreed that the auditorium would be the most difficult part of the building to replace.
The board also approved a bus contract extension.
In response to a district request, New Ulm Bus Lines had agreed to defer a projected 1 percent rate increase in the busing contract for 2012-13, in exchange for a two-year extension of the current contract.
The board action extended the contract through the 2016-17 school year, saving the district $16,000 next year.
A 2 percent rate increase will happen in each 2015-16 and 2016-17.
The district is also cutting a bus route, with an annual savings value of almost $39,000.
Technology infrastructure upgrades
The board approved the development of a request for a proposal and bid document package for network switching and wireless networking upgrades.
If the board approves bids, the infrastructure upgrades would happen this summer.
The board discussed at length, and approved, a technology curriculum study.
Technology Director Bill Sprung noted that the technology curriculum is not stand-alone but embedded in other content.
The board approved the retirements of several long-term secretaries and the resignations, as of the end of this year, of Rachel Moeller, the instructional improvement coordinator who has been instrumental in jump-starting the district's Professional Learning Community (PLC) process, and Kent Menzel, high school physics and chemistry teacher. Both have accepted offers in Mankato.