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Transfer of old Dent school from district to city runs into snag

DENT -- The transfer of ownership of the Dent school building ran into something of an oil slick.

Removal and potential clean-up of an old fuel tank is necessary before the city of Dent can take ownership of the vacated elementary school building.

The Dent Elementary School closed after last school year, as one of many budget cuts that have been made over the past several years. The Dent City Council and the school reached an agreement that would enable Dent to take ownership, and use the building as something of a multi-use facility -- similar to a community center.

The goal was to remove the tank before the ground freezes, but according to Perham buildings and grounds director Fred Sailer, the removal is now planned for spring. Further soil tests may be done at that time. The estimate for removal is about $2,000. The school may qualify for funds from the state "Superfund," and possibly from health and safety funds, said Sailer.

Oddly enough, the tank is believed to be one of the older units in the state that is still underground, noted Perham school Superintendent Tamara Uselman. It dates to the construction of the school in 1963.

"It's really in the school's court right now," said Dent Mayor Perry Coleman. The tank isn't leaking as far as the city knows, said Coleman, "but because of the age, the potential to leak is there."

Soil has been tested to Minnesota Pollution Control standards, and trace amounts of fuel were found in the soil, said Sailer, but the trace elements may have been from spillage when being refueled.

The school has poured a slab to set a 1,000 gallon above ground tank on. The school has a lead on a used tank and the school plans to install it this fall, said Sailer. The above ground tank will be the building's fuel supply from that point on.

The Dent school building has been offered to the city of Dent, but there has been no contract agreement yet--in part because of the fuel tank, which is the school's liability.

Various uses of the former elementary school have been discussed, noted Mayor Coleman, including meeting space, adult education classes, and possibly some fitness programs.