After Measure J: Truckee Rec and Park board weighs bevy of aquatics, arts options |

After Measure J: Truckee Rec and Park board weighs bevy of aquatics, arts options

Margaret Moran / Sierra SunA packed house listens to Bob French, chair of the Performing Arts Commission (right), and Dan Kates, chair of the Truckee Aquatic Coalition, Thursday evening as they presented six options on how to use the district's nearly $7 million in excess construction funds in wake of Measure J's defeat last month.

TRUCKEE – The Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District has some tough decisions to make regarding the future of aquatics and performing arts offerings within the community after last month’s defeat of Measure J.More than 80 residents turned out to the district’s Thursday evening meeting, where Bob French, chair of the Performing Arts Commission, and Dan Kates, chair of the Truckee Aquatic Coalition, presented the board with several options on how to spend the nearly $7 million in excess funds from the construction of the new recreation center in 2009.”We’re not here to advocate any particular solution for you,” French said. “We’re here instead to present you with what the options are.”

Kates and French presented six options to the board, listing pros and cons of each:• Build the performing arts center. Pros: Provides a professional performance venue for the community, offers an opportunity for diversified performing arts programming and economic benefits in the amount of $1.73 million annually. Cons: No aquatic center as the Truckee High School pool continues to age and the loss of $419,000 in annual aquatic economic benefits.• Build the aquatic center. Pros: Provides a new swimming facility that can accommodate diverse programming, compliments the new recreation center by providing locker rooms and offers $419,000 in annual revenue. Cons: No performing arts center and the loss of $1.73 million in revenue. • Build an aquatic center and apply a “Band-aid” for the existing Community Arts Center’s auditorium. Pros: The aquatic center gets built, $419,000 in annual revenue and a “marginal” increase in the use of the auditorium through mostly “cosmetic” upgrades. Cons: “Significant costs” totaling $1 million for improvements, seating reduction due to stage expansion and still no professional performance venue.• Build a performing arts center and apply a Band-aid for the high school pool. Pros: The performing arts center gets built and a swim facility would exist, but for an unknown period of time. Cons: “High” cost of $400,000 to $500,000 to fix the pool with possible additional unknown costs, still limited aquatic programming and no locker room for the new recreation center. • Expand the footprints of both the high school pool and the Community Arts Center. Pros: A potential “modest” increase in programming at each facility. Cons: School district does “not have interest” in a footprint expansion, and the arts center has a projected expense of $3.74 million, while also being located in a 100-year flood plain.• Build both new facilities in a reduced form at the new recreation center. Pros: Provides both facilities and “probable” revenue, but an unknown amount. Cons: Over budget, since construction of both facilities is estimated from $9.1 million to $9.8 million, with each facility having similar limitations as the existing venues.Board member Peter Werbel mentioned a seventh option: Not building either facility.”The board can decide to build neither, because we’re short $800,000 (for each project),” he said.Of the district’s original $7 million in excess construction funds, approximately $400,000 has been spent on facility designs, consultants and public surveys, said district General Manager Steve Randall. The current construction cost estimate is $7.25 million for the aquatic center and $7.3 million for the performing arts center, not including contingency funds.”I think in my mind and I think in Dan’s mind – based upon our discussions – none of these are real attractive,” French said. “The ones that seem to make the most sense here are the first two (options), so (it is) an either/or type of analysis that I think we’re at.”

Twenty-two attendees voiced opinion on the options, many supporting either the construction of the aquatic center or the performing arts center.”I think the pool here is a lifeline,” said Truckee resident Marie Desmond. “… It’s used by community members who are physically handicapped, community members who are injured. It’s used by the elderly for water aerobics. It’s used to teach kids swim lessons who would not otherwise get swim lessons anywhere else, and we live in a community where there’s water surrounding us. It’s a safety issue.”Diane Handzel, executive director of Get in the Act! Arts in Action, pointed out there are several merits to building the performing arts center.”Participants may not go on to be a Broadway star or may not create a masterpiece, but they gain lifelong learning skills: critical thinking, problem solving, learning how to express themselves and (how to) communicate effectively,” she said. Lynne Larson, chair of the group that opposed Measure J during the election, Truckee Citizens for Responsible Government, said she is in favor of the Band-aid approach for the arts center.”During that campaign (Measure J) the folks that wanted the performing arts center wanted a local theater centered in the heart of Truckee that would provide a venue for folks like InnerRhythms, community chorus, children’s theater, adult theater, Arts For the Schools, and the list just goes on,” she said. “Nobody that I’ve talked to – and that runs about a 1,000 people and I’m sure there were others who felt differently – nobody said they wanted an elaborate facility at the new recreation center designed to bring in big names.”I believe with some creativity and cooperation, the old rec center can and should be upgraded to serve the needs of our current local performing groups.” Truckee resident Ed Larson recommended not doing the Band-aid approach.”I think that would be a very poor decision because we wouldn’t end up winning anything,” he said. A handful of others offered an idea of using a portion of the leftover funds to complete the Truckee River Legacy Trail. “I don’t envy your position,” said Truckee resident Rich Valentine. “I think as we look at the options, it’s an either/or (situation). I think the only other factor that has to be included is where the community stands, and that is always a difficult task to arrive at.”

The board could make its decision as early as next month; in the meantime, board member Janet Brady urges residents to provide the board more input.”… The more input we can have over the next month, that’s what we need most importantly because this is a really, really hard decision,” she said.As of last Thursday, the board has received more than 20 letters on the issue.”I’m going to weigh your opinions,” said board member Kevin Murphy. “They all matter one way or another, and I’ll try to make the decision that’ll best fit the town of Truckee.”

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