Archive for Thursday, October 27, 2005

Shared thoughts on shared ideas

October 27, 2005

Ideas swirled when a group of who's who of the Baldwin community got together last Thursday at Baker University.

It was an historic meeting, at least in the recent past, when representatives from Baldwin City Council, Baldwin School Board, Baker University and the Baldwin City Recreation Commission were in the same place. Other groups were also represented, such as the Baldwin Community Arts Council and the Baldwin City Public Library.

The gathering was the idea of the school board as it began to look at a bond issue to put before voters. There has been discussion of building a new auditorium at Baldwin High School for years. The idea of last week's meeting of the various groups was to spark dialogue about something bigger, possibly a community center. Various idea were bantered around, but in the end, it was decided to get more input.

"Personally, I don't know what it is. It may just be an auditorium," said School Board Member Scott Lauridsen, who headed the meeting. "I agree it's a complex. But, let's let the people decide.

"We need to come together on a facility that we can all use rather than the school district building something, Baker building something," said Lauridsen.

Council President Amy Cleavinger agreed, but also pointed out other needs.

"I have an idea in my head about a community center," said Cleavinger. "We're getting a committee together to discuss what to do with the golf course property. I think there are some questions of whether the city should be involved with it. It is a city issue because it's a quality of life issue. I think it's a responsibility to add value to the city for people who live here and pay taxes here.

"I think we're severely lacking in gym space," she said. "Are four (new) ball fields enough? Absolutely not. We need more."

Lauridsen pointed to the success that has occurred with cooperation between the school district and city.

"The fear that this group has is we didn't have the conversation," he said of talking about facility needs for all groups. "We had success with the ballfields and we want to expand on that."

Baker was represented by Dan Harris, athletic director, who has been a part of the community for decades. He assured the group that Baker is on board about the future.

"Baker University has a very strong vested interest in the quality of life here," said Harris. "The quality of the community is of very high value. We want to partner in something like that. We've got some space and we want to partner with the community."

Most of the discussion centered around a building that would have multiple uses. It wouldn't just be an auditorium, but more. How much more is the question. It was decided that all of the groups represented would get back with their various board, councils, etc., to determine what facility needs are for everyone.

"We can't wait 30 days," said Baldwin Supt. James White. "We have to do something within two weeks."

That is to make a deadline for an April special election for a bond issue. That might not happen.

"We may have to target an August bond issue instead," said Lauridsen. "I'd like to get back together in a week with the uses we have -- facility use requirements."

The group got back together Wednesday night, but results from that meeting weren't available before press time. A story on the second meeting will be online at www.baldwincity.com.

One of the reasons that a shared facility with a basis in funding through a school bond issue is being explored is that the state will match about a third of the cost. That would allow a bigger budget for whatever is done, Lauridsen explained.

But, the main purpose was to talk about it. The failed North Park project was mentioned. That happened in the mid 1990s when Baker University offered to give the city a large parcel of ground north of Baldwin if a swimming pool, community center, ball fields, etc. were built there. The matter went to a vote and it passed by 12 votes. However, the city council at the time decided not to pursue it. That land is now the Signal Ridge addition.

"There was an effort that was put forth then and fell through," said David Jones, a member of the community. "We don't want to see that happen again."

Mayor Gary Walbridge said that needs to be let go.

"It's spilt milk," said Walbridge. "Let's get past that. It's spilt milk. A majority of 12 votes carried it and the council changed faces. They didn't want to do it."

"We've changed a lot in the last 10 years," said Lauridsen. "There isn't any guarantee that the same thing will happen. But, that shouldn't keep us from trying. Let's think 10 years ahead. Let's talk about that.

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