Historic East Bethel schoolhouse will be sold or demolished

The East Bethel City Council April 3 voted unanimously to declare a historic schoolhouse that was moved to Booster East Park in 2010 as surplus property and put it up for sale.

If the building does not sell within 30 days, it will be removed and disposed of.

The repairs necessary to make the schoolhouse in Booster East Park safe are extensive and would leave very little of the original structure intact. File photo by Eric Hagen

The repairs necessary to make the schoolhouse in Booster East Park safe are extensive and would leave very little of the original structure intact. File photo by Eric Hagen

East Bethel School District 37 used the building from 1857 through the 1953-54 school year. After that, the schoolhouse was used as a residence and then for farm storage. The most recent owner of the building, Bruce Plowchowski, had no need for it and donated it to the city.

According to City Administrator Jack Davis, the city spent $14,000 to move the building and $7,000 to pour the concrete slab it now sits on in Booster East Park. The building is structurally unsound and presents a liability to the city.

After inspecting the building, East Bethel’s building official said that the repairs needed are so extensive that it would leave very little of the original structure intact.

There is no city budget for repairing or renovating the schoolhouse. There is a donation account of $2,850 designated for restoring the building. Some of that money has been spent on windows and doors so that the building could be secured, but those have not yet been installed.

This leaves $1,855 in the donation account. The city plans to return the donations for renovation to the donors.

Dan Butler, who served on the parks commission when the city council decided to move the schoolhouse to the park, said the council had made that decision without any input or recommendation from the parks commission. He said the decision was made without having definitive information on the soundness of the building.

“Financially, I don’t think it made sense to spend $21,000 to move the schoolhouse; that was 5 percent of the city budget,” Butler said.

If the building does not sell within the next 30 days, the city will likely demolish the schoolhouse and transport it to a disposal facility. The floor joists could be salvaged and repurposed for commemorative use, said Davis.

Because the building has lead paint, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will not allow the city to burn the building.

Councilmember Heidi Moegerle said the city’s parks commission has discussed the possibility of repurposing the concrete slab on which the schoolhouse now sits for shuffleboard.

“We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Councilmember Robert DeRoche said about the council’s decision.

After the vote, Mayor Richard Lawrence apologized to those people who have worked so hard to try to come up with a way to preserve the building for historical purposes.

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