St. Joseph plans to buy the former Kennedy school and turn it into a community center.

The City Council directed staff Monday to finalize a purchase agreement for the building, now known as Colts Academy. Then Wednesday, the St. Cloud school board gave its OK to sell the building for $2.3 million.

St. Joseph residents want a community center yet are unsure what that might look like, said Judy Weyrens, city administrator. “But they know that they want some gym space, some meeting space and spaces for seniors to congregate.”

A committee will soon start weighing options for the building and its 13 acres of open land, she said. A music-based day care in the building would remain as a permanent tenant.

The council could approve a purchase agreement at its meeting this month or next. If that goes through, Weyrens said, the city could occupy the school as early as next year.

Jenna Ross @ByJenna


Cold Spring

Brewery awards clean farming with free beer

A few farmers in central Minnesota will get a hoppy reward for their clean-water efforts.

Third Street Brewhouse is offering free six-packs of their Rise to the Top Cream Ale to certain farmers whose practices are certified by the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. Farmers eligible for the free beer must be in the Middle Sauk River pilot area.

The brewery gets water from the Cold Spring Wellhead protection area, the land surrounding the source of drinking water for the town. It has seen increased levels of nitrates in recent years.

The brewery has given beer to about 10 farmers so far, said Doug DeGeest, vice president and general manager. “It’s not a huge gift but it’s something we can do to show our concern and our interest.”

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie


Oak Park Mall project negotiations fall apart

The city of Austin has ended talks to redevelop the Oak Park Mall, saying that “six months of intensive negotiations … have finally reached an impasse.”

In October, the city and the Austin Port Authority announced a deal to tear down a section of the struggling mall and build a Hy-Vee grocery store. But negotiating terms with the mall and its remaining tenants proved difficult. In February, the port authority terminated the purchase agreement.

“All parties have agreed that there is no further value in continuing the combined efforts to finish this project,” the city announced Monday on Facebook.

The Hormel Foundation had granted the city $3.2 million to buy the property — so Hy-Vee could then purchase the site, build its 60,000- to 90,000-square-foot store and donate the bare land back to the city.

Jenna Ross @ByJenna