Big Changes Happening on August 7, 2019.

COUNTDOWN: DAYS HRS MINS SECS

City narrowly approves rec center deal

Dissenters claim there are too many questions
By: 

City officials Wednesday signed on to a potential agreement with the Shawano School District that lays out each entity’s responsibilities should a proposed joint recreational center go forward, but not before discussion making it clear that the agreement doesn’t bind the city to the project.

The Shawano Common Council narrowly approved the agreement by a vote of 3-2, with one council member absent.

Alderwoman Sandy Steinke and Alderman John Hoeffs voted against. Alderwoman Rhonda Strebel was not present for the vote.

Steinke cited a number of unanswered questions.

“There has been a lot of discussion by the public, and I have been hearing a lot of questions,” she said.

Among them is what would happen to the existing city recreation center, Steinke said.

City Administrator Eddie Sheppard said there were many questions that will need to be addressed if the project goes forward and the city and school district move into the community input stage.

The proposed facility still needs to go to a school district referendum next April, if a district-wide survey this fall finds sufficient interest in it.

“We’re talking strictly about a potential relationship,” Sheppard said. “We’re not talking about an approval to move forward with a facility.”

Mayor Ed Whealon said there would have to be a frank discussion about what happens to the city’s existing recreation center if the project does go forward.

“We don’t want to see the city in a situation like we were in a number of years ago with the community center,” Whealon said.

“There’s a lot of questions. A lot of discussion’s going to have to take place,” Whealon said. “All this agreement does tonight is set the stage for that meeting to take place.”

Park and Recreation Director Matt Hendricks said the city’s decision whether to be involved will impact what the school district decides to do.

“The school district cannot proceed any further until they know, are we willing partners or not?” he said. “If we’re not, that’s one project. If we are, then that’s a different project. We’re at the juncture where the school district needs to know, are we a partner in it?”

Alderwoman Lisa Hoffman said she was undecided about the facility itself.

“But I don’t feel like that’s what we’re discussing tonight,” she said. “We’re discussing an agreement to move forward with a process. It’s a vote to say we’re willing to look at or partner with the school district if they’re willing to move forward with this.”

Hoeffs suggested the school district shouldn’t get involved with a community facility.

“Personally, I think that the school district should stick with the school district,” he said. “If they’re going to spend that kind of money, let’s go all the way and go with a field house. All the athletes can use it and you’re probably going to have a lot of usage.”

Hendricks said the proposed facility does include a 40,000 square-foot field house with an indoor track that would allow for spring sports that often get cancelled due to the weather.

Alderman Jeff Easter, who is also a school district employee, said the questions being raised were part of the discussions that would start if the agreement is approved.

Easter also noted that one of the reasons Shawano Community High School’s facility, which was envisioned as being open to the community, didn’t work out as planned was competition from the city’s recreation center.

“(The high school) had open swim six years ago and nobody was showing up,” he said. “They were paying for a lifeguard for no one to swim.”

The proposed joint-recreational and aquatic center would replace the city’s existing recreation center and expand facilities at SCHS.

It would be located adjacent to SCHS, on the north side of the building, and would include the school’s existing competition pool.

It would add a separate community pool area; a fitness area, including weights and cardiovascular equipment; a multi-purpose space; gymnasium; racquetball court; and indoor multi-purpose facility and walking track; as well as offices, bathrooms, lockers, storage and other amenities.