By LINDA MCALPINE Daily News
HARTFORD — Less than a handful of electors turned out Tuesday night for a special annual meeting of the Hartford Joint School District 1 that gave permission to the School Board to purchase the former Froedtert medical building at 402 W. Sumner St.
District Administrator Mark Smits said the plan is to rent part of the building to Cooperative Educational Service Agency as a site for one of the agency’s special education programs.
Smits said the district buses some students with special needs to CESA programs in Fond du Lac, West Bend and other locations. CESA has agreed to start a program in Hartford if the district can provide a site — which the purchase of the office building will fulfill.
School Board President Jeff Becker asked if the purchase would impact taxpayers but John Stellmacher, director of business services for the district, said it would have “zero impact,” on taxes.
Stellmacher said the district will borrow up to $1 million and use the rental money from CESA and money from the district’s fund balance to pay back the borrowing.
“We tried to get creative in sharing the cost of transportation with nearby districts if they had students going to the same program location and that worked in a couple of cases,” Smits said. “We starting thinking about why we were sending these students to other locations when CESA said it would be willing to open a program here in Hartford. All we needed was a site.
“We started looking for a building and considered a couple that were for sale, such as the photo studio and the Aurora building on Highway 60, but none of them met our needs,” Smits added.
The asking price for the Froedtert office building was $1.5 million, Smits said. “We initially made an offer of $500,000, which was turned down, but a counteroffer of $750,000 was accepted,” he said.
While the plan is to rent out part of the building to CESA, Smits said he could not rule out other possible uses, such as moving the district offices to that location. “We are also in dire need of storage space so the basement could be used for that purpose,” Smits said.
He also offered a recommendation, that if the district offices are at some point moved into the office building, that the modular classroom that currently serves as the district office be used for the district’s program for “at risk” students. That location would have an advantage as the students would then have access to the playground at Rossman Elementary School, Smits said.
Having the space the office building offers gives the district flexibility when making plans, Smits said.
“In the future, we may need more K4 space. I can’t say what our needs might be in five or 10 years, but we are growing and having this building will be an asset,” Smits added.
After the few electors who were present in addition to the School Board and district faculty approved the building purchase, the next step in the buying process took place at a regular meeting of the School Board, which convened after the special session.
The School Board approved a resolution allowing for the borrowing of up to $1 million. The extra $250,000 above the purchase price for the office is for the remodeling that will need to be done to suit the district’s needs.