ST. CLOUD -- A St. Cloud child care center is still in the process of trying to buy their building from District 742 and now neighbors are starting to share their concerns.

Little Saints Academy has been negotiating with the St. Cloud School District for three years to buy their current facility, which is the former Wilson Elementary School building.

Currently, Little Saints Academy leases the building from the district but would like to buy the facility to be able to permanently make it their St. Cloud home.

During St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis' Townhall meeting Thursday at Hester Park, several residents came out to talk about of the future of Little Saints Academy. The consensus was that residents would like to see Little Saints Academy own the building.

Since the city doesn't play a role in the sale of the building because the district owns it, the best steps the city can make is to start a conversation with Little Saints Academy and District 742.

Kleis says he's already working on bringing all sides together.

"We'll sit down, myself, the superintendent and Little Saints and see if we can find out a way to help. We're [the city] not ultimately the decision makers on this, it's the school board ultimately who has the accountability. If there's anything that comes from a neighborhood perspective that of course is the council. But we can be the advocates of the neighborhood and the voice of those who want to see some type of solution."

Amy Bonfig owns Little Saints Academy in both St. Joseph and St. Cloud. Bonfig says she's been working on finalizing a sale but so far hasn't been able to do so.

"For three years we have gone back and forth. There have been times when no one was pushing it so neither did we, we just kept paying our rent. There have been times when they said let's get this done, we don't want to be in the real estate business, we don't want to be leasing, which I get and we don't necessarily want landlords either. So we started down the road again and made them an offer. There was no real justification as far as how the price went so they decided to have the building appraised, that's been done and now we've been going back and forth. We've made several offers and we really haven't been able to come to an agreement."

The appraisal District 742 did on the building valued the former elementary school at $10,000. Al Dahlgren is the school board chair. He says Little Saints Academy's recent offer was for the appraisal amount.

"I don't believe we have any price established. We had the building appraised. The appraiser came back with an estimated value of $10,000 if you can take into consideration all of the improvements that would need to be done to the building to restore it to a top-notch facility. But if we were to put it on the open market, do I believe that building is worth more than $10,000, yes I do. If nothing else the land value, it's about 12 lots total, 12 city lots, and they are worth more than $1,000 a piece."

With the land value, Dahlgren says he doesn't believe Little Saints Academy made a reasonable offer for the facility.

"I don't feel that offer [$10,000] was reasonable for the property. Whether there was an appraisal or not. We hired someone to do an appraisal, that doesn't mean we agree with the appraised value. It's just we hired someone to come in and do that, they gave us their thoughts on it but that doesn't mean that we agree with it."

Dahlgren says District 742's finance committee has recommended to the school board to not accept Little Saints Academy's $10,000 offer for the building. The school board will be discussing the potential sale at its meeting on Wednesday.

The child care center has about 80 children enrolled on each campus. Bonfig says she's going to do everything in her power to buy the St. Cloud building. She says it needs to be Little Saints forever home.

"We do always end up losing families when this stuff with the school district comes about. They get scared, there's a crisis in St. Cloud, there's no childcare available. When this gets brought up in the media again our families tend to get scared. And I'm going to fight until the very end so they really don't have anything to be scared about. We're going to do what's best for our kids always first and foremost."

Little Saints Academy focuses on incorporating music and movement as a learning tool. The child care center was founded in St. Joseph about eight years ago.

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