Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

School building buyer explains business


Chad Ward, representing Restoration Services of Minnesota, Inc. (RSI), met with the Moose Lake School Board and the Moose Lake City Council in a meeting at the school on Tuesday, November 10.

Restoration Services of Minnesota, Inc. has submitted a purchase agreement and earnest funds to the school board to indicate its interest in purchasing the current school building.

“We were not looking to destroy this building after we move into the new school in the fall of 2017,” said Superintendent Robert Indihar. “We put this property on the market to sell it, and we had a buyer right away.”

Ward explained he and two partners, Jim and Ron Miller, operate a group home in Windemere Township and will be opening two more group homes west of Sturgeon Lake and in Sandstone soon.

The homes are for clients who suffer from traumatic brain injuries, schizophrenia, veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other such maladies, Ward explained. He added people get concerned when Level One and Level Two sex offenders are also brought in for treatment.

“People get nervous when they hear we treat sex offenders,” he added. “They won’t live here. We promise that we won’t bring in Level Three sex offenders; that’s just not done. There is a big difference between Level Two and Three sex offenders. Most of the sex offenders in our program were in their teens or early 20s when they offended. Now they are in their 50s, and basically dying. The threat isn’t really there. But we have two staff members with them at all times.

“The sex offenders to watch out for are the people in the community, such as a neighbor or a weird uncle. Those are the ones you don’t know about until something happens.”

Ward said he and his partners are excited about the school building. He said there are plans to remodel the classrooms on the second and third levels of the current high school portion of the building into apartments. The first floor will be kept open.

The common areas, such as the auditorium, the music rooms, the gym, the ball fields, the playground and the tennis court will still be available for use by the community and the school, said Ward.

“A neuropsychologist is interested in having an office here,” he added. “We will also have a full staff. Many of our employees are former employees of the DOC (prison) and MSOP (sex offender program). They know how to handle the residents.”

The residents in the school and in many of their group homes are all males but one of the new group homes will be for the treatment of women, Ward explained.

“We are very good at what we do,” he said. “We are all about teaching the residents independent living skills and integrate the guys into the community.”

Ward said he met with Supt. Indihar and learned about all of the repairs that needed to be made to the building, including a new roof, tuck pointing, plumbing issues and so forth.

“We plan to remodel it in phases,” he said. “We’ll get the offices done right away.”

Plans are to locate their offices in the elementary wing but the remainder of the classrooms will be available for lease by other entities, such as the city or private use. The kitchen and cafeteria will also be available for community use.

Industrial tech areas could be used for vocational programs, such as building furniture.

“Everything will be brand new,” said Ward. “Plans are to bring in 20 residents, with 10 on each of the two floors. The size of the space for each resident is determined by the Department of Human Services.”

Ward also said there is a possibility of providing space for mentally ill people who need to be held for up to 72 hours until space is found for them in a treatment center.

The business will employ counselors, maintenance people and people for programs, such as music therapy. The gym and ball fields will also be used at times for the residents and those brought in for treatment.

There was concern expressed by members of the city council about the financial stability of the company, and that it would not close the school building and leave the community in the future.

Ward assured the board and council the company is financially sound and agreed to provide financial statements next spring.

If the sale of the building proceeds, it was said the city council will have to rezone the property. The building and property will then be a taxable entity.

Scott Sosalla of Architectural Resources, Inc., the school’s architectural firm, offered to help RSI with the plan for the building.

“We are very excited about this building and all of the possibilities,” Ward concluded. “We also want to work with the city, the school district and the community and offer space for other uses.”

In a telephone interview, Supt. Indihar said the sale of the building is a long process, and the sale probably would not be completed for a year.

Another item on the agenda was the discussion between the school board and city council about installing water and sewer lines to the new school.

Supt. Indihar expressed his and the board’s dismay that the sewer line was not brought in along the new street, Opportunity Drive, by the developer when the infrastructure was installed for Kwik Trip, which would have made it easier for the school to bring the line to its property.

The sewer line was brought in from Highway 73 on the east side of the property.

There was considerable discussion about the two possible routes for the sewer and water lines to the new school and the expense involved.

Mayor Ted Shaw said a very rough estimate was that 1,000 feet of pipe would be needed and the project could cost $100,000. He added the city has 1,000 feet of new pipe that could be used.

“I’m tight on budget already,” said Sosalla. “I can’t do $100,000. I had them put in a T for the water line so it could come from either direction. Those lines and the gas line will have to come in to the back of the school.”

The sewer and water lines could also be brought in from the former auto auction property but that would not serve future development on the school district property.

The city’s engineer, Steven Heth of Bolton and Menk, was also present and said he will try to find out the size and the location of the water line along County Road 10.

“In other cities I worked in, you (the school district) will have to bring the lines to your property,” he said. “If the other property ever gets developed, you will be reimbursed.”

Mayor Shaw said a developer is planning on building a 20-unit apartment building next year, the first of three apartment buildings planned.

In the last item on the agenda, Supt. Indihar asked the city to work with the school as more of the school district’s property is sold to developers.

“We are not developers,” he said. “Is there a way for us to work with the developers as we sell the land to do it right? We have buyers. We want to make sure the property is developed correctly, whatever that means.”

“There is a lot of potential,” Mayor Shaw answered. “That is the only land available for development in the city.”

The regular monthly meeting of the Moose Lake School Board has been changed from the third Monday to Monday, November 23, at 5 p.m. in the board room at the school.


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