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A time for ideas and questions: HUB committee holding public meetings for input on what to do with the soon-to-be vacant high school

About 18 community members attended a meeting learn about and provided input on a proposed project for the old Perham High School. (Kim Brasel/FOCUS).

The committee made up of various community members tasked with coming up ideas for what to do with the old Perham High School held a meeting Tuesday afternoon for public input.

Fred Sailer, a member of the committee, started off the meeting by describing the process the committee has gone through so far and where it is at now.

"We are looking at bringing everyone together and getting input from the community because we need input to make something happen," he said.

The group started meeting in 2015 with the idea of of getting background on costs, possibilities and viability of various options so they would have some answers when it came time for public input.

The committee consists of of representatives from the city, city council, school and school board, PACC, PACC board and county. On hand Tuesday were Project Manager Emily Dreyer, PACC Director Kevin Nelson, PACC Board Member Staci Malikowski, Perham School Board member Sue Huebsch, Fred Sailer, and City Manager Jonathan Smith.

The committee is looking at several options for what to do with the old high school and updating the PACC.

Project Manager Emily Dreyer described the four options that were identified for the repurpose of the high school, which include: do nothing; demo the entire building; demo most of the building, leaving the wing that includes the old gym and auditorium; or renovate and repurpose the entire facility.

"Each option has pros and cons and associated costs," she said. The least expensive option is to do nothing; however, that leaves an empty building falling apart in the middle to town. The most expensive option, repurposing the entire building to create "The Hub" a Family Services Center, has an estimated cost of $10-12 million. This utilizes spaces that are already there and gives a home to organizations in need of more space. However, there are long term maintenance and operational cost issues."

The big question is of course how to pay for any of the options. Funding options include: fundraising, corporate sponsorships, new market tax credits, state bonding dollars, a local options sales tax and grants.

Paying for the any of the options was one question the audience of 18 had, in addition to: if the high school wasn't worth fixing before, why now? And, what's the hurry?

City Manager Jonathan Smith said there isn't a hurry to get the project underway, they are just trying to be proactive in order to keep the building from falling into a state of disrepair and becoming an issue for the city and police. There is also the issue of the timeline for asking the legislature for bonding money and putting the sales tax to a vote.

The effect the sales tax would have on local businesses, and other recent tax increases were also concerns of those who attended the meeting.

Sailer said for him, after volunteering his time with this project, he sees it as a way to help employees at KLN who need child care, since that's one of the services that would be offered in the space. He says it's also a way to help local non profits that offer much needed services to the community.

Before everyone left, audience member Fran Johnson, director of the Perham Arts Center, said repurposing an old building is a lot of work, but she feels it says something positive about a town.

If you were unable to attend today's meeting, two more meetings will be held at the PACC. The first, tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. and and the second, Monday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. The public can also submit ideas to thehub.perham@gmail.com.

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