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Helmut Schmidt, Published February 14 2012

Fargo School District may take over Bluestem operations

FARGO – The operations of the financially strapped Bluestem Center for the Arts in Moorhead would be taken over by the Fargo School District and Bluestem personnel would stick to fundraising under a plan to be offered in talks between the entities.

The school board voted 9-0 on Monday to create a three-person committee to meet with Bluestem representatives, though no meeting dates have been set yet, board President Jim Johnson said.

Johnson said he wanted to hammer out an agreement with Bluestem in the next two weeks, so the school board could act on it at its Feb. 28 meeting.

Creating an endowment fund run by the school district to pay operating costs of Bluestem and the Trollwood Performing Arts School will also be proposed, according to a memo to the board.

However, Johnson said the legality of such an arrangement must first be determined by the North Dakota attorney general.

“What I really want them to get back to is what they do best: Get out in the community, raise support for the concept of not only Trollwood but of the Bluestem Center, and not have to worry about having the facility booked, having the lawns mowed,” Johnson said. “Those are the things we have the expertise to handle internally … probably without having to add staff costs.”

Johnson said the school board hasn’t adopted the 10 points in the memo as things that must absolutely be done to move forward.

“It’s more conceptually, to take us back to where we were in north Fargo, and really work together collectively to make this jewel we have in south Moorhead what it truly can become to the community,” Johnson said.

Among major points in the proposal, the district would:

The school district had to cover a $286,000 bond payment in December when Bluestem failed to raise enough money.

The arrangement stems from a 2008 deal in which the School District backed a $3.5 million bond to help build the new Trollwood site in Moorhead.

Bluestem still owes $2.1 million on the bond, and $2.7 million in a separate no-interest start-up loan from the district.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583