New Richmond School Board discusses Community CommonsThe future of the New Richmond Community Commons is unknown. Tenants are about half way through their three year lease with the School District of New Richmond and talks of the future have already begun.
By: By Jackie Grumish, New Richmond News
The future of the New Richmond Community Commons is unknown.
Tenants are about half way through their three year lease with the School District of New Richmond and talks of the future have already begun.
Some of the groups housed in the former New Richmond Middle School, like the New Richmond Senior Center and VFW Post 10818, have blossomed since moving to the commons building.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, who has already indicated they will not seek an extension to their three-year lease.
“They basically have expressed the idea that they want to have all of their programming on the campus, if they have the choice,” said Morrie Veilleux, district administrator. “And so they are not interested in continuing after the three years is up.”
WITC’s decision presents a problem for the commons, he said.
“They’re our biggest paying customer there so that creates an issue with the operating budget,” he said.
“The city has already expressed, through GEN Network meetings, that they’re not interested in taking over the site; but, they are interested in exploring the possibility of a private partnership between the city, the school district and a private party, which could include the library. Doing something that would preserve all of that building, maybe part of that building and, very honestly, one of the things that’s being talked about is it might be cheaper to basically raze almost the whole building and start over from new.”
Veilleux said the district was quoted $8 million a few years ago when they discussed bringing the building up to code in terms of the electrical system, fire alarms, lighting, roofs, etc.
“And that was in 2005-07 dollars, it’s probably closer to $10 million now. What organization within the school district, including the city and all that, could possibly raise $10 million and then when you get all said and done, you still have old buildings,” he said.
Veilleux said the suggestion of razing the building and starting new came from Mike Darrow, city administrator.
Several ideas are being thrown around, including the possibility of including seniors apartments with the project, Veilleux said.
“It could become kind of a community center with living, library and ambulance service right there,” he said.
Veilleux supplied the board with a report from Patrick Overton, a consultant who has been working with the city, townships and school district to facilitate community conversations and collaboration.
In Overton’s report, five options were identified.
1. Continued ownership of the Community Commons by the school district with possible expansion of the role of the school district’s community education program and its role in directing the commons facility.
2. Create a community-based governance structure to provide leadership of the facility and, if necessary, possible ownership of the building.
3. Identify what needs to be done to the second and third floors of the former middle school to make it usable, safe and in compliance with code/504 and pursue major lease holder that could occupy this floor, pay for renovation of the space, and use it for a major project.
4. Develop key strategic partnerships, each with its unique focus in partnership with the commons, to pursue specific aspects of the commons’ purpose, programming and overall sustainability.
5. If none of these recommendations are successful, acknowledge the project will not be moving forward so there is ample notification to the current commons partners that they will need to be finding new space. This decision about the future will need to be made by the Government Entities Network and submitted to the Board of Education, along with a specific recommendation as to what should happen with the building, by no later than the end of June 2013.
“Our goal is to have some type of definitive recommendation to the board no later than June,” Veilleux said. “If there’s no way to keep it going and there’s no organization within the community that wants to step up, then we need to let our Community Commons partners know that so they have a year to plan.”
Veilleux said no one is arguing the concept of the Community Commons.
“There is an extreme amount of enthusiasm for the concept,” he said. “Our discussions right now are not about whether the concept is a valuable concept, but maybe about where it’s got to be located.”
Overton’s report outlines some things for the board to consider, Veilleux said. It was presented as a way to get the thought process started, he said.
“There are not a lot of answers. Not a lot for you to consider, but some for you to think about,” he said.
The Community Commons currently houses New Richmond Area Community Education, WITC, CESA 11/Head Start, Five Loaves Food and Clothing Center, New Richmond Area Community Foundation, New Richmond Senior Center and VFW Post 10818.