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Board postpones new school site

The District 833 School Board is giving itself a little more time to decide where to locate a third high school, due to concerns that ground on one of the sites might be polluted.

The board was expected to decide Oct. 17 between the two proposed sites for the new school, both in Woodbury, but it pushed back the decision until Nov. 16 to do more testing on the 120-acre site at the southeast corner of Dale Road and County Road 19, which is a half-mile away from a 3M dump site that's raising the pollution concerns.

The company dumped chemicals and solvents at the site from 1960 to 1966. After a solvent was discovered in a shallow water well next to the site, surface materials were removed and the site was burned under an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The company installed monitoring wells on the edges of the property.

The agency and the company have said the extent of the pollution is small.

District officials hired consultants for two studies to evaluate the potential school site and no evidence of contamination was found, according to Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for facilities.

The concern is that some of the soil might have been contaminated by fly ash from burning the site in 1968 because burning does not destroy all chemicals that might have been at the site, according to Vogel.

He said the district already has the soil samples to be tested. The site would be served with city water and sewer so groundwater quality is not an issue, he said.

At the Oct. 17 meeting, board members invited people to comment on both the Dale Road site and the 80-acre site on Bailey Road and Pioneer Drive, but only four people expressed opinions.

Polly Kegler, who lives on Dale Road, said there is considerable electromagnetic interference on phones and stereos from radio broadcast antennas between the school site and 3M property. The problem was solved with filters, she said.

Vogel said district engineering consultants and those representing the station are exploring the issue and possible solutions.

Mike Litgen, who lives near the Bailey Road site, said he, and his neighbors, prefer the Dale Road site because of traffic concerns.

Karyn Dulka, Cottage Grove, said she and her neighbors want the new school at the Dale Road site because it is closer to Cottage Grove. A high school at the Bailey Road site would be a "Woodbury school," she said.

A suggestion to buy the State Farm Insurance building next to Interstate 94 is not in the cards, Vogel said, because it is in School District 622. Even though it is legal to locate a school outside the district, it is prime commercial property and is likely to be rejected by the city because school property is tax exempt.

In reviewing the site-selection process, Vogel said nine potential sites were considered from a 2002 list used to select sites for Cottage Grove and Liberty Ridge elementary schools.

Sites did not make the final cut because of topography, traffic-flow concerns, availability of city sewer and water, willingness of sellers, neighborhood resistance, developers buying or holding property options and plans for future roads through some of the sites.

"If we found some property attractive, developers did, too," Vogel said.

Of the hundred responses the district received, 14 percent favor the Bailey Road site and the remainder want the Dale Road site to be selected, Vogel said.

Both of the remaining two sites are acceptable to the city and fit the district's criteria, he said.

If the Bailey site were selected, Pioneer Drive, which ends at Bailey Road, would be a four-lane road extended south along the eastern side of the site.

Another road would come off of Radio Drive, south of the sports complex, into the school site.

Water and a temporary sewer connection are available on Bailey Road, but a sewer interceptor will go through the site in 2010 and the school will have to be connected at that time.

Surface water runoff could be contained on city property where a gravel pit is now located but the area charges for water containment will be higher than if water were retained on the school site.

The site cannot be expanded because of power lines in the southern edge.

Total site development costs of the Bailey site, including permits, are estimated at $6.4 to $7 million, when added to the price of the land, the total cost would be $14.5 to $15 million.

The cost of developing the Dale Road site is estimated at $6 to $6.4 million with the total cost at $15.2 to $15.6 million, partly because the site is 40 acres larger.

City sewer is available on County Road 19 but a water main would have to be extended from Bailey Road.

In addition, the city has the site slated for a 20-acre regional pond to contain surface water runoff from the surrounding area.

Board Member Jim Gelbmann, on speakerphone, from China on a business trip, asked if the city would amend its plan and locate the pond elsewhere or help pay for the cost.

Vogel said city officials told him that site developers must pay for ponds.

Judy Spooner can be reached at

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600