Sunday, March 18, 2018

School no longer interested in old hospital building

The Columbus School Board has withdrawn its interest in the old hospital to use for possible expansion.
In a letter dated Feb. 21 from Columbus School District Superintendent Jeff Bermes, the Stillwater County commissioners were notified that the school is “no longer interested in pursuing a possible land swap for the old hospital building.”
That decision was made at the Feb. 14 regular school board meeting as the board “decided to move forward with other options” as the school’s population continues to grow and more room must be made. Costs of demolishing the old hospital were a factor in the decision.
Also a factor was the length of time it took to get an answer from the commissioners as to whether or not some kind of swap was even was an option, Bermes told the News Tuesday afternoon.
The commissioners received the letter hand-delivered on Tuesday, Feb. 28 and none of them had time to review it thoroughly. Commissioner Maureen Davey is out-of-state and commissioners Mark Crago and Dennis Shupak were out of the office for most of Tuesday.
Bermes initially approached the commissioners about possibly swapping the old hospital for 30 acres of property the school owns near Stillwater Billings Clinic on Oct. 31, 2016. If a swap could have been arranged, the school would have demolished the old hospital and built a new building. The school district was also interested in having students involved with residents of the Meadowlark Assisted Living Facility, which is attached to the old hospital.
At the conclusion of that October 2016 meeting, Davey and then-Commissioner Gerald Dell told Bermes they would get back in touch with him regarding the matter.
Bermes said he never heard back from them and the commissioners never made the school’s inquiry public, aside from meeting the legal standards of posting the meeting with Bermes.
However, on Nov. 1, 2016, the commissioners publicly announced they had chosen to remodel the old hospital to make room for county office space.
In January 2017, Crago presented a proposal that involved the swap with the school, as well as construction of a new county building, new fairgrounds site and a new library/recreational building.
It is unclear what impact the school’s withdrawal will have on that proposal as commissioners had not had time to evaluate that by press time.