Community Hall project topic of meeting

by nathan oster

A public hearing on the town’s plan to apply for a grant to renovate the Herb Asp Community Center passed quietly on Thursday night, as no one other than town and recreation district staff and board members showed up to discuss the project.

The town, which owns the facility, has applied for funding through the 2014 Business Ready Community (BRC) Grant and Loan Program.  It is seeking $320,000, and using as the local match the value of the building and the lot.

Administrator/Finance Director Paul Thur explained that the proposed renovation would increase the size of the classroom by about 45 percent while creating an area for a dance studio, relocating the restrooms, improving the roller rink office and building an access to the attic which would be used strictly for storage.

Heather Howe, the director of the recreation district, said she believes the additional classroom space would be beneficial for programs like Messy Me. Instead of having seating for 10, there would suddenly be space for closer to 20.

“Redoing the rec center a little bit won’t replace the pool, but it will allow us to get creative and create a few more recreation opportunities — even if it’s just another class that we can offer to the community,” said Thur.

Howe agreed, saying the district would be able to add one to two activities per month.

“Yes, it’s a lot of money to put into the rec center, which is an old building,” Thur said. “But it’s been there for 77 years already, and with the structural analysis, we feel it could be there another 100 years if we take care of it.  We might as well spruce it up.”

Myles Foley, a member of the town council as well as the recreation board, said he heard from people who were confused about the type of funding being pursued.  It’s a grant — not a loan or a mortgage, he emphasize.

Thur had a Saturday deadline to apply for the grant funding through the WBC.   The WBC will do a walk-through in March and announce its recommendations in May.  Then it will head to the SLIB for final determinations in June.

Thur said he has no read on whether the town’s application will be approved.

“We don’t fit into this 100 percent of the way,” he said.  “This particular grant program is intended to fund projects that are more economic-development type of things.  But this is a quality of life issue. It isn’t going to create jobs, other than short-term positions for contractors.  But I thin it enhances what we can offer, and gives people living here even more stuff to do.”

The group discussed the timeline for the project, and while there was some concern about impacting the Hands Across the Saddle benefit, they agreed that the summertime would be the best time to complete the project.

“We’re busier during the school year (in that building) than we are during the summer,” said Howe, noting that much of the recreation district’s programming takes place outside or in the park.

The project is expected to take six to eight weeks to complete.

Thur said that if the budgets of both the town and the recreation district set aside line items for facility improvements, the town could proceed with items on the wish list that wouldn’t be covered by the grant, including the exterior logs and improvements to the interior walls.