OUR OPINION: Higher ed board, Bremer Bank should talk
A Herald reader offered a suggestion for the North Dakota Board of Higher Education, and it's a good one: The board should start talking with Bremer Bank about how to get out in front of and ultimately put to rest the issue of the REAC Building a...
A Herald reader offered a suggestion for the North Dakota Board of Higher Education, and it’s a good one:
The board should start talking with Bremer Bank about how to get out in front of and ultimately put to rest the issue of the REAC Building at UND.
The talks would be in the interest of both parties, which also means they’d be good for the state.
Several circumstances are lining up to make talking with Bremer advantageous for the board. First, there’s the prospect of the vote in November that could, if North Dakotans elect, replace the board with a three-member commission.
If the current board wants to keep the higher-education status quo, then the board members need to convince North Dakota voters that the board knows how to solve problems, be proactive and lead.
Taking the initiative to get the REAC Building issue off of North Dakotans’ radar screens would help do just that.
Second, there’s the fact that both the propriety and the legality of the REAC building’s sale to UND now have been called into question. As North Dakotans know, the Legislature approved the sale, but directed that the board negotiate the terms with the seller -- the UND Research Foundation.
And to make a long story short, that negotiation didn’t happen. Instead, UND and the UND Research Foundation came to terms on their own, exactly the too-close-for-comfort arrangement that the Legislature had been trying to avoid.
Talking with Bremer - which loaned money both to help the REAC project get started in 2009 and to finance UND’s recent purchase of the building - could help convince lawmakers that the board at last is taking the Legislature’s directive seriously.
Meanwhile, at Bremer, this story has been a source of bad PR, thanks to claims that UND’s purchase of the struggling building amounted to a taxpayer “bailout” that helped the bank.
Then last week brought the news that the sale might be voided because of improper language in a key UND document. If that were to happen, would Bremer sue UND for fraud and battle things out in court?
Or might the bank prefer certainly over uncertainty, which could mean talking with the board now and coming to mutually agreeable terms?
It’s in the board, the bank and UND’s interest to get the matter of the REAC Building behind them as soon as possible. And one good way for that to happen might be for the board and the bank to sit down together and hash things out.