The Advocate Tribune met with members of the H.A.A.G. Task Force to discuss its plans for the Clarkfield school. The purpose of the task force is to work as a community, the City of Clarkfield, and the county, to work on possibilities for what to use the site for, or what to do with the site. The task force has done all the pre-work involved: the legalities of transition of ownership, options for what to do with the property, setting up the task force, talking with other communities that have dealt with the same situation.
The task force doesn't want to just make a decision; they are planning to hold a series of meetings, starting on Feb. 27th at 7 p.m. "The idea is for the public to know what's going on and to come forward with ideas," stated Adam Isaacs, Clarkfield EDA Vice Chair. At the meetings, the task force will present its perspective from touring the building. The building inspector will also give a report. There will be pictures available for viewing so people can see the condition of the building for themselves. There will also be some break out small group discussions to explore possibilities.
There are going to be three total meetings, one Feb 27th 7pm, and the other two will occur as spring progresses. The goal is to have a decision and a plan by June. The task force will then present the plan to the city and the county. The key is for the community to get involved.
After the school closed, Einar Agustsson purchased the facility in May of 2013 for approximately $76,000. Originally, Agustsson spoke of plans to retrofit the building into a research lab/facility that would be staffed by around 10 individuals. Red flags were raised in the Clarkfield community when the Agustsson family suddenly departed the country and failed to communicate the situation. The task force then worked with the state to do an expidited tax forfiture after Agustsson failed to pay the property taxes. This transfered ownership to the state and then the county and city.
The task force wants to emphasize that the past is the past, and the focus needs to be on the present circumstances and how to move forward. City Administrator Amanda Lupke explained, "Our task force is looking at the needs of the community, but we want to hear from the public too and make it a joint effort."
Dale Stringer talked about the condition of the building. "The middle section is the worst. When the roof goes, water comes in, floors peel up...The West wing is mostly vandalism...The gym floor has some warped boards along one side."
There are a few ideas floating around. One is a daycare. Issac added, "I personally think that's a great idea. That's a pretty big need for the town, daycare is limited. The area was set up as a pre-school most recently... The other main needs of the city are business and jobs. There's some opportunities. The art and shop areas are ok. Any kind of manufacturing would work in that area. The old gym could be a cold storage facility, either to rent or just have... The main idea is: We have this building. We're going to hold these meetings, and as a community we're going to figure out a plan." explained Issac.