Craig Pete Bergmann, Moffat County School District superintendent, came to the Craig City Council meeting Tuesday with an offer.
The city may never find a cheaper, easier or more possible way to add "critical" gym space to the community, Bergmann said, other than partnering with the school district.
He and former Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan, now construction liaison for the school district's many building projects, appeared before council to request the city fund $150,000 to help build expanded gym space at Craig Middle School.
"I really don't believe there are many other options we have or that will present themselves with this potential to address the gym shortage in our community," Bergmann said Wednesday. "This is a responsible and reasonable option to improve the health and recreation for kids, adults and seniors."
Plans, possible changes
Moffat County voters approved a $29.5 million bond for the school district in November 2007, which included almost $16 million to build a new middle school.
School Board members elected to keep costs down by building new classrooms around the middle school's existing auditorium, industrial arts building and gym.
The plans also include a small auxiliary gym - about 52 feet by 46 feet in size - which school officials plan to use for exercise, wrestling and game space.
If the city says no to the school district's proposal, the small gym would meet its students' needs, Bergmann said.
"This space, a larger gym, would enhance our (physical education) programming, but the main reason we have to increase the gym space is for the community to use," he said. "If the city chooses to become a financial partner, we would give it control of the programming and the use of the gym."
A bigger gym would be large enough for a full-length basketball court, Bergmann said. It could be divided in half for two smaller basketball courts or two full-length volleyball courts.
Dave Pike, Craig Parks and Recreation Department director, said extra gym space would be "extremely valuable" considering his department has cut several programs because of the lack of his gym space.
"This gives us an opportunity to not only continue the existing programs but to possibly expand our programs in the future," Pike told council members. "We don't have any adult basketball. We struggle with all of our kids in any of our programs because we don't have any room for practice."
There is a waiting list for youth basketball because the city doesn't have enough gym space to create enough teams for all the children who want to play, Pike added.
What City Council said
The mayor and each of the five councilors at the meeting Tuesday said they like the idea, but they will need more time to think.
Funding issues were the largest barrier to making an immediate decision.
Building an expanded gym would cost $450,000 to $500,000, Bergmann said.
The School District has $250,000 for the project - $150,000 budgeted to build the small gym and another $100,000 from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
The city's money would come out of its general fund, which City Manager Jim Ferree said has a $431,000 surplus from 2008 after the city collected more tax revenue and spent less money than expected. There also could be surplus funds in the Parks and Recreation budget if grants are awarded later this year.
However, the city has other projects in line for funding, including $145,750 for new equipment, because officials believed there wouldn't be dollars available.
Ferree told council the school district's project was a bargain, but it would have to weigh spending money on a gym with spending it on other city services.
Councilors responded they thought this might be too good an offer to pass up.
"Before tonight, I was a no," Councilor Joe Herod said. "I just had it in my head there was no way we could do this. Tonight, just from what I heard, if we can come up with the money, I'm for this."
Councilor Bill Johnston said the project may be a way to solve the problem of gym space without asking for money from taxpayers.
"This seems to me like a good compromise in providing recreation and fulfilling what the taxpayers told us," he said. "They don't want a rec center. I think I could straightface any taxpayer with this idea. When taxing entities partner, the taxpayer wins."
The council voted unanimously, 6-0, to schedule another discussion with school district officials at the next council meeting March 10, when members plans to make a final decision. Councilor Terry Carwile was absent and did not vote.