Rec center proposal downsized once again

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The West Routt Recreation District Committee is talking of downsizing yet again its proposal for a major recreation center to further cut costs to taxpayers. The decision comes just weeks after the committee announced it was cutting its initial plan in half, phasing construction and leaving playing fields until a later date to make the tax increases it would require more palatable to voters.

At a committee meeting on Thursday, the group discussed the possibility of cutting a proposed 8,400-square-foot gymnasium from the first phase of construction. With the elimination of a gymnasium, an indoor walking track would go with it.

The committee is most concerned with the "bottom line" figure that taxpayers will be voting on in November. All members agree that presenting a less costly Phase I of the project would give it a better chance at election time.

Downsizing from the original 42,000-square-foot facility to a 30,000-square-foot center translated to a reduction of the proposed tax increase from nearly $500 annually in additional property taxes and membership fees to $340. District taxpayers opting to not use the proposed center would pay $140 annually in increased taxes. With the elimination of a gym, the committee hopes it can cut even more off the bottom-line tax increase it will take to voters.

Despite the proposed cutbacks, the committee still wants to phase the project so that all members of the community can get what they think is most needed.

The even smaller version of the project now on the table could better ensure the tax increases would pass at election time, committee member Mark Klapperich said. He thought that district residents would vote in favor of a property tax increase if the total cost per household for taxes and membership fees was closer to $200 -- a number the committee is shooting for.

"We can make the gym part of the Phase II construction," he said. "We already have three gyms in town. Getting rid of the gym in the first phase would reduce the tax burden and give us a better chance in November."

Some locals are disappointed that so much is being cut from the project's Phase I construction.

"I don't know that we need a gymnasium but we definitely need a multi-purpose building of some sort to go along with the project," said Stacy DeLuca, a longtime Hayden resident and mother of two. "I'd like a multi-purpose building that could offer indoor activities that change with the seasons, like indoor soccer and field hockey, things like that, not just basketball and volleyball courts."

Judy Parrott, another local parent, said that her family is very interested in a community recreation center.

"It would be worth the extra taxes to have a place we can go as a family," she said. "I think paying $200 to $300 dollars is doable for our family, but I'm concerned with that price for a lot of other families in town. It still may be too much."

Mark Fischer said that he was pleased to see that users of the proposed facility would shoulder most of the operational fees with membership dues. Although Fischer is no longer a homeowner in Hayden, he owns commercial property in the community and will most likely pay increased property taxes only.

"I think Hayden needs some community recreation and the users would be paying for most of this," he said. "That's a fair way to assess the financial responsibility from the district."

Patty Bruchez questioned whether a recreation center would really be used by busy families living in an area surrounded with other recreational opportunities.

"People are independent around here. My biggest concern is participation and commitment by a majority of the community. Not just the dozen or so people you see at every event, but will the whole community use this facility?" she asked. "Getting adults to commit is really difficult, but understandable. Hayden is full of working families, do they have time for a recreation center when they don't have time for much else as it is?"

The lack of participation in existing programs in Hayden leads her to believe that sinking taxpayer money into a new large recreation facility would be a wasted effort, Bruchez said.

"Kids don't utilize what we already have in place in Hayden because of all the recreation opportunities around us," she said. "I don't know that a rec center is the answer and I don't think our community can support it. It's not that I'm against recreation, I'm just not in favor of the center."

In November, voters in the proposed West Routt Recreation District, which encompasses Hayden and Milner and the surrounding rural area, will be asked to form that district, pass a mill levy increase to pay for operating costs of the new facility, a construction bond that will pay for construction of the recreation center and elect board members to oversee the district.

"People are complaining to the Town Board and School Board that our kids have nothing to do in Hayden," DeLuca said. "Let's give them more to do. If this doesn't pass, those people won't be able to complain anymore. People are going to have to give it up somewhere."


-- To reach Bryna Larsen, call 871-4205 or e-mail blarsen@amigo.net

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