BIG HORN — The Sheridan County School District 1 Recreation District board met Wednesday evening to hold a public hearing about a community center it has proposed to build near the “Big Horn Y” at the intersection of Highways 335 and 87 about four miles north of Big Horn. Six community members attended and four voiced support for the center, citing a need for activity space in Big Horn and the positive economic impact the center could offer.
There were no comments against the center.
The proposed center would include a 7,000-square-foot community center with activity, classroom and office space. A 21,250-square-foot racket facility for tennis and pickleball has also been proposed for the site and included on the conditional use permit submitted to Sheridan County for approval. The racket facility would be built, funded and operated by the Sheridan Community Tennis Association.
The land for the center was purchased by the recreation district from the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church for approximately $300,000 following a fire last summer that destroyed the church building which was being rented by SCSD 1 as a temporary bus barn and used as a bus stop location. Because SCSD 1 carried insurance on the building, the insurance company could provide up to $950,000 to rebuild a structure of similar size.
The center was considered by the county Planning and Zoning Commission April 4. Four out of five board members voted against it. Board member Jeremy Smith, business manager for SCSD 1, recused himself from the vote.
Sheridan County Commissioners will consider the conditional use permit for the proposed center at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.
At the meeting, board member Carla Dunham handed out copies of a survey sent to parents of Big Horn students through the school’s email contact list. The survey received 98 responses, 77 in favor of the center and 20 against it.
Comments in support of the center said Big Horn would benefit from activity space and programs for kids and adults. Comments against the center expressed concern about maintenance and funding over the years, the safety of its location and the duplication of services. Several comments requested that the center include athletics facilities such as a gym and pool.
According to board member Larry Crouse, the survey was emailed in late April. He said the board was unsure of how to get the survey out to the larger Big Horn community at the time. At the meeting, the group discussed posting the survey at other locations to get additional input.
Much of the rest of the discussion centered on how to garner support for the center at the county commission meeting.
Smith said if the center is denied, the insurance company will pay $640,000, the actual cash value of the land at the time the bus barn burned down. If the center is approved, insurance will put $950,000 toward a new facility.
“If the board of county commissioners were to deny the conditional use permit that’s been recommended by their staff, what happens is, the funds that were received from the actual cash value of the building that burned down belong to the property owner, which in this case is the recreation district,” Smith said.
Smith said a conditional use permit to build a bus barn on the land already exists, so that may be a possibility if the community center is denied.
In other business:
• The board discussed funding requests. A request from Joey’s Flyfishing for a four-day summer camp for six students each from Tongue River and Big Horn was approved. The request was for a $150 scholarship for each student. Funding requests for the Big Horn prom were denied since they came in after deadline. A request for band scholarships at Tongue River was denied because Smith said there was other funding available for the band.
• Carla Dunham was nominated as secretary for the recreation district board.
• Smith told the board they were in good financial shape for the year with $70,000 currently available for funding requests. During the budget discussion, Smith recommended the board spend every dollar it receives for Fiscal Year 2014 without reserving any for community center funding.