When the ISD 742 promised to “repurpose” the Tech High School and turn it into the School District’s office, people didn’t imagine that the District would betray them. That’s what they did, though. Now, the District wants to transfer that property to the City of St. Cloud.

Matt Demczyk’s article states that “St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis says he and St. Cloud Schools Superintendent Willie Jett have come up with a proposal to have the district transfer the school and grounds to the city once the district vacates the property to move into the new Tech High School.”

Demczyk continues by quoting Mayor Kleis as saying “We are proposing to both the school board and city council that District 742, when it vacates Tech in 2019, that all of that property is conveyed to the city, so the city can plan in conjunction with the neighborhood the redevelopment of that site. And we’ve gone through this process many times where we will set, with the neighborhood and community, a process envisioning the best possible use.”

Let’s be clear about something. I don’t trust Willie Jett at all and I don’t trust Dave Kleis that much, either. I agree that the City has more tools to use and that they’ve gone through this process before. This is prime real estate. It should be zoned commercial so we can start getting property tax revenue from it. Since the City Council has to vote on the Jett-Kleis negotiations, they have the right to put stipulations on how the property can be used.

There’s little question that the planning board won’t want restrictions put on it. That’s tough. Since the property belongs to the people, the people should have a say in the matter. If the property isn’t put back on the property tax rolls and if the property doesn’t meet with the people’s approval, the Jett-Kleis initiative should be rejected.

Kleis says the city doesn’t want to hurt the character of the neighborhood, and will work with community members as plans are drawn up to renovate the historic part of the building. The Mayor is hoping city council and the school board sign off on the proposal in the next month or so.

If the people get what they want, we’ll sign off on the initiative. If we don’t get what we want, the City and the District will have its hands full. It’s time the District, the Mayor and the Council got a taste of trust but verify.

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