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Bemidji School Board to decide on sale of old Buzzle School property

Every now and then Bemidji School District's Chris Leinen, director of business services, comes across something out of the ordinary, such as a letter he received back in September.

The letter was written by a man who asked to purchase two acres of school district-owned land in Buzzle Township, north of Pinewood. Leinen did not know the district owned such land.

Leinen wrote a letter to the Minnesota Department of Education, asking it to verify the school district owned the property. The department responded, verifying the property did, indeed, belong to the district. As it turns out, the district has owned the property for more than 90 years.

The property originally belonged to the Buzzle School, or School District 57, which eventually consolidated into School District 31 in the early 1900s. He learned there were two deeds on the consolidation of the property, one dated 1914 and another dated 1924. Both deeds stated that two acres was to go to School District 31.

School District 57 was known as the Buzzle School, "the school with only foot trails."

According to "Buzzle Township 1898-1976," written by the Pinewood Homemakers Club, residents of the Pinewood area organized the district in 1901 after elected officers purchased two acres of land for a building site. The location was the precise center of the new district and was established by calculating the shortest walking distances from the pupils' homes.

Louis Marchand's "A History of Rural Schools of Beltrami County," states that motor vehicles could not reach the building site and the construction and maintenance work required wagons in the years Buzzle was open.

Merchand wrote that the Buzzle School consolidated into Debs Common School District 132, then to Pinewood CSD 74, and eventually to Independent School District 31. The school building sold for $200 in 1952 and was moved to Liberty Township to become the Town Hall. Only foundation debris remains at the original site.

According to Leinen, the MDE keeps a record of the lineage of school districts. At one time there were thousands of school districts in Minnesota.

"Many of these were old country schools," Leinen said. "Oftentimes each section had a school. They were one-room school buildings and all were separate school districts."

Over the years, he said, the one-room school houses consolidated and larger schools were built.

Every two to three years, Leinen said, he comes across a piece of property he was unaware the school district owned, which has become more frequent in recent years.

"Now that global mapping systems have come online with the county, it is easier to do a search with properties listed in name of certain entity," Leinen said. "Now properties will pop up on a screen, whereas before you would have to dig through filed records."

Leinen said there are very few records on the two-acre property in Buzzle Township and nothing has been filed since 1924.

"There is no way we could've known we owned it until someone had brought it to our attention," Leinen said. "That's what happened. A man showed up and said, 'I'd like to buy it.'"

At a school board meeting at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 20, the school board will vote on whether or not to advertise for sealed bids for the sale. Leinen said he is unsure of how much the property is worth.

"It is two acres in the middle of nowhere with no road going to it," he said. "We'll find out how much it will be."

In the past, Leinen said, the district came across a property ownership situation similar to this case, but it was determined Blackduck School District owned the property.

"Even though the deed said it was to go to School District 31, back when deed was written, School District 31 wasn't us," Leinen said. "It is not as clear cut as you might think it is."