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Vote on PEAK lease nears

A new twist was added to an already knotted subject when the Children’s Institute for Learning Differences (CHILD) announced its wish to bid for the district’s surplus land — currently set aside for PEAK — at the Aug. 9 School Board meeting. But ultimately, the independant school failed to submit a formal bid.

More than 20 residents attended the meeting, eager to discuss the recently published PEAK draft lease and joint-use agreement. Among them was CHILD director Trina Westerlund.

Standing before the Board, the director announced that CHILD had always wanted to expand, and if the School Board must open its “surplus land” for competitive bidding, per law, rather than giving it directly to PEAK, CHILD would like a chance to explore its expansion possibilities. She then asked how CHILD should formally pursue this.

The news, which threw the PEAK lease agreement for a temporary spin, came as a complete surprise to the Board.

“I thought it was interesting for [CHILD] to, at the last minute, state their interest in the land,” said Liz Dodd, assistant superintendent of business services.

According to Westerlund, her primary reason for attending the meeting wasn’t to place a bid, but rather to inform the Board that CHILD had been interested in the land.

“I went simply as a point of information to say that we did, indeed, want the property, but we didn’t have the proper information [to pursue this],” she said.

Preschool advocate Stowe Sprague echoed this point.

“It’s sort of been a done deal with PEAK from the start,” she said. “We only first heard of the possibility to bid when the Reporter published a notice [of transfer] in July.”

Dodd said that the Board was unaware CHILD wanted the land.

“If we had known earlier that they were interested, we would have made the [bidding] conditions clear to them and taken more steps to include them in the process,” she said after the meeting.

According to district resolution 517, the lease of school property, defined as “surplus,” must comply with competitive bidding state statute.

This means that any entity could bid for the property within the 45-day public comment period, which ended on Aug. 17, “provided that the School Board may establish reasonable conditions for the use of such real property to assure the safe and proper operation of the property in a manner consistent with Board policies.”

On Aug. 16, Westerlund sent superintendent Cyndy Simms an e-mail expressing CHILD’s wish to bid for the land. However, no formal bid was submitted.

“[Westerlund] sent me an e-mail saying she was interested, but that was it,” Simms said. “There was not bid.”

Since the 45-day window period expired on Aug. 17, bidding is officially closed. Therefore, the Board will go ahead with leasing plans with the Boys and Girls Club, and will once more discuss PEAK with the public at its upcoming meeting, scheduled for Aug. 23.

According to the new agenda, the School Board will hold a public hearing on the revised lease and joint use agreement between the MISD and the Boys and Girls Club for PEAK.

The Board had initially scheduled Aug. 23 as the date to vote on the draft-lease agreement. However, due the amount of public concern over PEAK, which was made clear at the Aug. 9 meeting, the Board has placed this action on temporary hold.

“We may or may not take action [at this week’s meeting],” Simms said. “The Board will open [the draft lease and joint-use agreement] for discussion and then decide whether to vote or not.”

This week’s School Board meeting will commence at 7 p.m. on Aug. 23.

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