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SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County School District 1 Recreation District Board is hoping for more community support for the proposed Big Horn Community Center.
Once again, the Big Horn Community Center took up a majority of the discussion at last night’s board meeting.
Before the board even began discussing their next steps with the project, there was some heavy questioning from the public. A bit of a debate developed on the legality of the situation in which the district acquired their loans to purchase the land.
While the board members said they feel confident that they didn’t break the law, they said they understood that the situation was a slippery slope. There isn’t a law that says, “yes, you can do this” or “no, you can’t do this.” Instead, board members said, the law is up for interpretation, which the board considered good in the sense that it wasn’t illegal for them to acquire the loans for the land.
After both sides did their best to counter the opposing viewpoints, the open forum transitioned directly into a discussion within the board about where to go next.
The next step for the board will be to apply for a conditional use permit, but the board was split on when they should do that.
They were denied a CUP a year ago, which has created some cause for concern in being denied for a second time. Vice Chairman Zack Cummins was hesitant to reapply for the permit, stating they might have a better chance once they have more community backing.
While the entire board was in agreement about needing more support, Carla Dunham expressed her frustration with the project, suggesting she would prefer to just go for it right now rather than prolong the admittedly stressful situation.
In a motion to continue meeting with the county commissioners in pursuit of a CUP, the board was split. Three were in favor of the course of action, while two were opposed.
Cummins, who was one of the two opposed to the motion, was worried that a second denial might damage their chances for success down the road with the project.
More community support, he feels, is a necessity in order to achieve that success.
“I felt like it would hurt us moving forward unless we really had a large voice in the community speaking out for it,” he said.
Their hope is that a strong support group can counter the influential voice from the opposition, which has been much more prominent during this whole process.
“It’s always the squeaky wheel that gets greased,” Chairman Chad Aksamit said when asked if the opposition had anything to do with the struggle to receive their permits. “It’s the loudest people that are usually the naysayers. We just want supporters to be more vocal.”
While the board will continue to pursue the CUP, they hope they see more support, or they may have to rethink their strategy down the road.
Aksamit said a big decision will have to be made once they find out if they received the CUP or not. They either will continue the plan to build the community center with the roughly $950,000 or take the $650,000 settlement and pay off their mortgage and look for other options in funding and building a community center in Big Horn.
The board feels strongly about the impact the center will have on Big Horn, and they hope they can rally some troops to help lead the charge toward what they feel is a positive community entity.
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