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Helmut Schmidt, Published April 10 2012

Aldevron happier with latest price for Woodrow Wilson building

FARGO – Woodrow Wilson School may soon have a new owner, and the Fargo School District may soon lock up its superintendent pick.

The school board voted 9-0 Tuesday to lower its offer to sell Woodrow Wilson to local biotech firm Aldevron to $700,000.

The empty building and the city block it sits on would be sold “as is,” the board agreed.

The vote was welcomed by Aldevron’s Chief Operating Officer Ron Robson.

“I’m pleased with what they’ve come up with. … It’s pretty favorable,” he said.

Robson said he believes Aldevron can work with the offer.

The board also unanimously approved final changes to its contract offer to Jeff Schatz to become the district’s next superintendent.

Schatz, the principal of Fargo Davies High School, will be offered $170,000 per year, with up to $10,000 in merit-based compensation after one year. He would also receive a $5,000 expense allowance and 30 days of personal time off annually.

Schatz actually got a pay raise of sorts at the meeting. The board voted to increase the base pay offer by $10,000 from what was originally proposed after several members, led by John Strand, urged that the starting salary be closer to the $179,000 range advertised nationally and also comparable to the pay of other superintendents in the region.

Strand urged that Fargo keep its status as a premier district in the state to work in. “I don’t want Fargo to be in fourth place in North Dakota,” he said.

Aldevron has said it to wants to buy Woodrow Wilson to convert into a new headquarters, consolidating its three Fargo facilities downtown, closer to the area’s colleges.

In making its pitch, Aldevron also said the building can accommodate expansion, saying it could house up to 200 employees.

Aldevron has more than 70 employees, most of them in Fargo, with the rest in Madison, Wis., and Freiburg, Germany.

Woodrow Wilson was shopped on the market a year ago for $1.45 million.

In January, the district dropped its asking price to $1.1 million when Aldevron made its first overtures. The price was dropped to $800,000 in March as talks continued.

Until recently, the building housed Woodrow Wilson High School, adult education and other district programs. Those programs were moved to the former Agassiz Middle School/South Campus II building in south Fargo.

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