From: Quincy McCullough
At the most recent Winona Area Public Schools Board meeting, the School Board foolishly voted to give away the three most recently closed schools. Given away is a slight exaggeration, but the three properties (Central, Madison and Rollingstone) have a combined assessed value of over $6.8 million, yet sold for $382,000. Half-a-dozen residents spoke up against this madness at the meeting, but the School Board’s mind was made up (or lost), except for one voice of reason on the board — Allison Quam.
Yes, the buildings in Winona are old and need repairs, but you know what, the land they sit on is conservatively worth twice what the district is getting. Take for example the two blocks in downtown Winona that Fastenal and Bob Kierlin purchased this year, which respectively total $3.3 million and $1.9 million in land purchases. Does going five blocks over to Central kill the value by 90 percent? Obviously no! With proper marketing and some effort the school district easily could have drummed up at least a few extra hundred thousand dollars per school.
Let’s discuss the bid process: the School Board put some ads in the local papers, wrote up a two-page bid document, and lo and behold, the only people who bid are the folks who follow School Board matters closely. This extremely poor marketing led to a situation where there were only three bids for each building, and only one remotely serious bid for each. The board was under no obligation to award the schools to the bids that came in, and they should have done what any reasonable person would do when offered a terrible deal — go elsewhere. If you are trying to sell your house and only are offered a fraction of what it is worth, would you take it? Of course not, you’d keep it on the market. The board also made the mistake to go with closed bids, which are great for getting a low price (most entities will use closed bids when soliciting services), but are not ideal for getting maximal value. Holding an auction is a much better option for getting a higher and truer price, particularly if it is well advertised.
The crazy thing is a fellow in the audience offered to pay $29,000 more than the high bidder for Central. So all the school district had to do was open up the bids again, and they’d be $29,000 richer, and saving us taxpayers. They hardly blinked. During the discussion, this man became frustrated and cried out for the board to hear his pitch again because it made no sense for them to turn down more money. Ms. Coleman said, “Uh, were trying to have a meeting here.” No Ms. Coleman, you are throwing away money and ruining the district’s future.
It really should be no surprise that the School Board that put forward an epically bad referendum in 2017 would make such a poor choice once again. I know that I won’t be voting for any referendum unless it also clears out the fools who are presently on the School Board. I’m not one to bash public officials — they put themselves out there, devote untold hours, and take a beating for standing up for their beliefs without much thanks — but on a move as asinine as this, they deserve to be ripped to shreds. Please let them know how disappointed you are that they squandered their one and only opportunity to raise meaningful funds for our students. We’ll all pay for their mistakes in one way or another.
It goes without saying that our children’s future is the most important goal in many of our lives, and a big piece of that is our children’s education. I am deeply saddened that such a critical part of our community is being run into the ground.