More School Board Fun & Games

Robert Boone

The fun and games with the Duluth School District continued on Tuesday, December 2nd. First, the Duluth News Tribune chastised board member Harry Welty at great length for  disclosing the purchase price that the school district had negotiated for the former Central High School site. The school district's initial asking price was 16 million dollars,  and had previously been reduced to 13.7 million.   The purchase price,  the identity of the buyer and other terms were to be withheld until the deal was finalized; per a non-disclosure clause.   The 77 acre parcel will be sold for ten million dollars, which has been "improperly" disclosed on Welty's blog.

While the Duluth News Tribune ranted ad nauseum at Welty for disclosing the purchase price, they were, of course, pursuing information requests under the Data Practices Act in an attempt to acquire the information themselves. One suspects that they might have then printed said news.

Tuesday evening the School Board moved forward in their efforts to rid themselves of gadfly member Art Johnstone. After months of investigation, Mary Rice, the attorney hired to investigate the various allegations against Johnstone submitted her report to the Board. The Board then voted 5-2 to attempt to remove Johnstone.  Johnstone has the right to appeal, which will certainly lead to exhaustive and expensive testimony and hearings before a retired judge. More on this next week.

The Reader has learned that the heretofor anonymous buyer is Kraus-Anderson Company. Kraus-Anderson is a large Minnesota based developer who apparently will be demolishing Central High School for a future real estate project. The fate of the adjacent secondary technical school is not yet clear. The secondary technical school was built in 1995 for $6.5 million, refinanced in 2002 and has a final payment due on March 1 of 2015 for $578,136.25.

This payment and assorted real estate fees likely due on the sale may reduce the net amount received by the school board to the neighborhood of $9 million.

According to Wikipedia, Kraus-Anderson was founded in1897 and is privately owned by the Engelsma family. They have headquarters in Minneapolis, a substantial presence in Duluth and deal in commercial construction, insurance and capital. Kraus-Anderson has worked on diverse projects such as Black Bear Casino,  Canterbury Park and the Duluth International Airport terminal.

The Reader confirmed this with two reliable confidential sources. For the record, The Reader does not reveal our sources whom are speaking "off the record";  however in this rare instance we will at least clarify that it was not a school board member who brought this information to us.