Baggs facility breaks ground after 30 years of work

— For 12 years, Callay Danford, of Dixon, wondered.

She wondered if plans to build the Valley Community Center - a facility designed to serve Little Snake River Valley residents - would ever come to fruition.

"We had so many ups and downs," said Danford, the Valley Community Center Joint Powers Board secretary.

On Friday, she stopped wondering.

"When they say by June of next year, you're going to have a building here, I don't know ... it amazes me," Danford said after Friday's groundbreaking ceremony for the facility in Baggs, Wyo.

The Community Center is designed to provide a location for community gatherings and events - something the community lacks. In the past, funerals have taken place inside the Little Snake River Valley School's gym - sometimes during school hours - because there's no other facility large enough to host them, Danford said.

She added that the Community Center also is designed to contain a game room, space for local youth to complete homework, a walking track and a regulation-size gym.

The 1,700-square-foot building will cost about $2.9 million, said Kathi Terkla, Joint Powers Board chairperson.

The Community Center is slated for completion in summer or fall of 2010, said Thomas Johnson, a Wyoming Business Council regional director who helped residents obtain grants for the project. Those grants included a $1.5 million Business Council Community Facilities grant and a Business Ready Communities grant totaling about $300,000.

Other funding sources include the Carbon County commissioners and Devon Energy Corp. officials, who provided $500,000 for the project.

Community members also lent a hand and donated about $100,000, said Pat Sheehan, Carbon County School District 1 board member.

Sheehan added that the School District originally owned the land where the facility will be built, and district officials deeded the property to the Joint Powers Board earlier this year.

Building the Community Center has been a longstanding desire in the Little Snake River Valley.

"For 30 years, we've been working on this, and this is the day," Sheehan said during the groundbreaking ceremony.

Danford was one resident who helped revive the project after it stalled. She recalled working on a penny drive for the Community Center, the proceeds of which were used to apply for the facility's nonprofit status, which allowed residents to make tax-deductable donations to the project.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who spoke at the event, compared residents' efforts to support the facility to a barn raising - an event in which community members pool their resources to construct a single structure.

"Here, you're building a true community facility," he said, later adding, "I think you deserve to be congratulated."

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