Rec. board to try again for community center

RANCHESTER — The Sheridan County School District 1 Recreation District Board met Wednesday night in Ranchester discussing new ways to pursue a Big Horn Community Center.

Meeting at the SCSD1 central office building with one person from the public in attendance, they launched right into a discussion about how to proceed with the Big Horn Community Center project, which was recently denied a conditional use permit by the Sheridan County Board of County Commissioners.

Board Chair Zack Cummins said he saw a few options for the use of the land: try to address the building without the tennis facility, table the building take the $650,000 they have from the insurance payment for the burned down building and look for another use for it, or sell the land and look for a new location for the project.
Without the tennis facility, the project is proposed as a 7,500 square foot building with activity, classroom and office space.

The $650,000 is being held by SCSD1 and has no timetable for when it must be used. The amount was given because the CUP was denied, and was the value of the building at the time the bus barn burned down. If the CUP had been approved, the insurance could have paid up to $950,000 toward the community center.

Moving forward, the board does owe preliminary construction costs for services performed by O’Dell construction on their proposed building.

“I still like that location,” Cummins said. “ We go out and spread the word and gather more support, and try again with the commissioners.”

At last month’s meeting, the board heard the results of a survey of Big Horn residents and heard support (77 in favor of and 20 against) for the community center project.

“All we need is some people to get their hands dirty to get a fund going,” Cummins continued.

He added that moving to a different site loses them the $300,000 they used to buy the land from the Apostolic Lutheran Church.
“It’s convenient as a drop spot, and I don’t think really anywhere in Big Horn is convenient,” Cummins said.

A CUP for a bus barn at that location still exists. That has been a point of argument for the community center, as the board says it could also serve for a bus stop for Big Horn students.

Board member Greg Benzel said he felt that they should pursue the building, but they should also do so with a timeframe.
“We need a five-year limit on whatever we do here,” Benzel said. “We need to say we can do it in five years, and if we can’t, we come back and look at it again.”

Board member Larry Crouse chimed in.

“Stay the course, talk to some more neighbors; I think that and the tennis facility were the real problems,” he said. “We need to see how they feel just about a community center.”

The board decided to pursue the community center by gathering support without the tennis facility, without spending any of the money yet and moved on to discussing maintenance of the land. SCSD1 Business Manager Jeremy Smith said the SCSD1 summer crews could spray weeds and mow at the site. The board also agreed to put up no trespassing signs.

While the board moved on to the only other item on the agenda under old business, funding requests, the community center issue quickly resurfaced.

The board was presented with $39,450 in requests. The recreation board funds programs from both Tongue River and Big Horn, and there was a disparity in the request amounts from each side. Tongue River’s funding requests totaled $23,250 while Big Horn requested $16,200.

While they discussed ways to keep the number even, Benzel reminded the board that this issue was not a new one and would continue to come up, as Tongue River had a place to run its programs while Big Horn does not, only further highlighting their need for a community center there.

“When I talk to people from Tongue River, I tell them that this building over there (Big Horn) is of the utmost importance to Tongue River,” he said.

As they discussed requests, they took into account that they had money to spend. To begin the meeting, the board heard an update from Smith, who told them that they have $61,875.13 in the remaining fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Eventually, the board decided to evaluate each request individually and vote on them. They approved requests including money for project graduation at Big Horn, young guns wrestling club, Big Horn volleyball camp scholarships, programs with the YMCA that required travel to and from Sheridan and Tongue River football camp scholarships. They also approved requests from the town of Dayton for swim lessons and water zumba as well as a Tongue River Valley Community Center program request.

The board tabled a $20,000 request from K-Life Ministries, put off by the large amount. No one was in attendance from K-Life to explain the requests, and the recreation board planned to invite a K-Life representative to July’s meeting, wanting to make sure K-Life programs were just for SCSD1 kids, and not Sheridan kids as well. Additionally, they did not approve a $1,000 request from Big Horn for elementary school yearbooks, not seeing it as program related.

In the end, the board approved a total of $18,450 in requests — $13,250 from Tongue River and $5,200 from Big Horn.

Board members Crouse, Carla Dunham and Gene Bard agreed to put together a plan to meet with and gather support from Big Horn residents for the community center before their July meeting.

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Brad Estes

Sheridan Press sports editor

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