The West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board will have one more recreation center and one less school after Lane Middle School closes at the end of the current school year.
The school board on Oct. 31 agreed to redefine the school as a recovery center as part of its 2022-2023 budget. She voted in June to close Lane Intermediate School and two other elementary schools at the end of the 2022-23 school year.
The district’s Department of Recreation and Community Services will lease Lane Intermediate from the district.
However, this decision did not come without some criticism from members of the public.
Three people – Gary Schmid, Joe Mikolajczak and Steve Broadwell – spoke during the public comment portion of the Oct. 31 meeting. Each opposed the recreation center proposal and asked the district to consider selling the building to a church group. Schmid is a resident and member of the church. Mikolajczak and Broadwell are also residents of the district, but are not members of the church.
“When one considers that there will be less operating capital expenditures in the future, plus proceeds from the sale that can be used for other needs in the school district, I believe it will be an overall positive transaction for both the school district and also for the residents,” he said. Schmid, who is a resident and member of the church.
Mikolajczak, accused the board of being “very dishonest and secretive” in informing the public about the proposal. Mikolajczak also criticized the board for ignoring the church group’s offer “for months and months” to buy the Lane High School building and not informing the public about the offer.
“Enough is enough. Don’t waste our money. It’s our money; it’s not your money. Sell this building and forget your idea of a community center. I think you’re deathly afraid of competition and you don’t want to lose control of this building.” , Mikolajczak said.
Broadwell criticized the district for not responding to the church group’s requests to meet about its offer.
“You will not have done your due diligence on behalf of our children or our taxpayers until you speak to those interested in the property. Your refusal to do so will certainly be remembered by the taxpayers the next time you come to them, Broadwell said.
Proposal of the church group
Mike Zarling spoke to the board during an Oct. 24 meeting about his church’s bid to purchase the Lane Middle School building. Zarling is a resident of West Allis and a member of Living Hope Lutheran Church in West Allis.
Zarling said that while the church had previously submitted a private bid to the board, the church wanted to make its bid public so that all options for the school building could be considered. He said the church’s previous requests to meet with the board to discuss its offer had been denied.
Zarling did not disclose the price nor the specific terms of the church’s offer.
“We would like to publicly state that, among other things, our offer increases the tax rolls by returning some properties we have to the city that are currently exempt from the tax rolls. It is also consistent with the area’s current zoning. , which I am told the recreation center is not currently by the city of West Allis under that current zoning. And it provides more money for the school district, the physical offering that’s been made,” Zarling said.
Zarling said the building could be available for public use if the church purchased the school building. He said the church would be open to using the facility for open gyms, exercise classes, as a voting center and for other public uses. “The actions of any long-term and successful organization, such as your school board, are based on the consideration of multiple options. Therefore, we ask that the board consider and thoroughly review any district’s offer of non- school district like ourselves for using Lane to ensure the highest and best possible return is provided to the school district and the taxpayer,” said Zarling.
The board discussed the buyer’s interest in closed session, according to an emailed statement from district officials.
“The Lane property was never for sale. The formal, unsolicited offer to purchase the Lane was received while the board was considering the Recreation proposal,” the statement said.
“Had there been no proposal from Recreation and a viable solution to replace the gym space, the administration would have recommended working with a broker to seek competitive bids for the redevelopment of the site, but would not have recommended the sale to a competing school provider,” he added.
The school facility as a recreation center
The proposal to use the building as a recreation center, presented at the Sept. 19 School Board meeting, suggested leasing and remodeling Lane “to expand recreation and athletic opportunities in our community.”
The district also said that under the lease agreement, the recreation department will be responsible for all building maintenance.
The district said the proposal would reduce the school tax rate from $7.55 per $1,000 of property value to $6.44 per $1,000 of property value; maintain access to high-quality gym space, create an accessible and inclusive playground, provide employees with a free fitness center membership, provide resources to support needs in other older neighborhood buildings and will retain control of the property by the school board.
Since the property is currently zoned as a school, the district will work with the city of West Allis to change the zoning.
Next steps include the district asking for calls for proposals from construction firms to develop detailed plans for demolishing some parts of the building and remodeling others. The district will then work with the City of West Allis to secure appropriate zoning followed by demolition and construction to follow sometime in mid-to-late summer 2023, according to an email from the city’s director of communications and community relations. West Allis-West Milwaukee School District, Amanda Stewart. .