Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why I'm voting "no" on the 6th penny rec-center

Cheyenne needs a rec-center, just not the one on the 6th-penny ballot. The construction of the rec-center Cheyenne needs is already underway, being built by the Cheyenne Boys and Girls Club. The “Vote For The Rec Center” website ( asks us to approve the 33 million dollar proposal without any mention of the work already underway by the Boys and Girls Club. It makes no sense to build both.

Cheyenne should put resources into making certain the Boys and Girls Club facility succeeds, not in taxing people to build a competing center.

Supporters of the 6th-penny-plan say they will attempt to raise money for “scholarships” for low-income families. That’s not a plan. It’s certainly not an open door for the community. If taxpayers are funding a rec-center, its ability to adequately serve those who cannot afford existing recreational facilities should be at the center of its mission. Proponents answer concerns some have about the future costs of maintaining a rec-center, saying they will recover “94% of operating costs and consequently will have a relatively minor impact on the level of tax support.” Really? That’ll put a heavy reliance on membership fees at a rate far above what is affordable for families who should have equal access to a taxpayer-built center.
Then there is the issue of location. Proponents claim the location is yet to be determined. They assure it will be decided only after the voters give approval. At the same time, the site plan shows it will be built on land north of Prairie Hills Golf Course. The proponent’s website says the 6th-penny-rec-center is, “Tentatively planned in center of county population density just south of Cahill Park in Ward 3. Infrastructure and land is paid for at this location, however, other locations are also being considered closer to downtown.”
But there is apparently no consideration of a south or west side site. Location says a great deal about those who are going to be primarily served. Despite assurances there will be an open, transparent site selection process following the vote, we both know the location has already been determined. Kids living in other parts of town will be asked to take the bus and hope they have a “scholarship” so they can get through the door.
The Boys and Girls Club facility is already in Phase 1 of construction. A $195,000 Community Development Block Grant enabled them to begin at the corner of West Jefferson Road and Walterscheid. This site includes 12-acres, allowing for the construction of basketball and volleyball courts, a playground and picnic shelters. Plans include a large recreational and learning center, especially designed to be a place for youth.
The location means it will serve an under-served part of town while investing in the south side of the city.
Currently the Boys and Girls Club is located in a city-owned building at 1700 Snyder. They lease it from the city for $1 per month. In that inadequately small facility, they serve more than 500 children ages 6 to 18. There are as many as a hundred a day in the building. Imagine what they will do with their new center?
If the proponents of a new rec-center for Cheyenne are serious about providing a recreational program for all children and their families, they should sit down with the Boys and Girls Club and figure out how to support their plans. The taxpayers could build a facility with 6th penny funds and then lease it to the Boys and Girls Club for $1 per year. The Club has already demonstrated it has the ability to successfully manage such a facility and to serve a wide array of children.
If the voters helped build it, the Club could maintain and mange it and the entire community would be better off.
Until the proponents of a new rec-center can show they have a genuine plan to serve under-served kids and families at a location providing meaningful access, I am voting against the rec-center.

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