BCRC tweaks start of Baldwin City community center drive
The Baldwin City Recreation Commission board will take a step back before pressing forward with its push for a community center.
When BCRC director Steve Friend and BCRC board member Dan Harris updated the Baldwin school board Nov. 16 on the renewed drive for a community center, they indicated the BCRC board would discuss this month the hiring of an architect to draw up preliminary plans and develop cost estimates for the recreation facility.
Friend said Friday, however, it was agreed that step was premature and that the first order of business should be the creation of a steering committee of stakeholders. The steering committee would help ensure the BCRC, city, school district and Baker University were on the same page and help with the all important step of selecting a site for a possible community center, Friend said. The steering committee also would examine other possible needs or concerns that could be addressed with the community center project, he said.
Among the steering committee members are school board member Kelley Bethell-Smith and district activities director Gary Stevanus from the school district, Baker vice-president of strategic planning Andy Jett, and Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman. The City Council has suggested Steve Bauer and Tony Brown, who serve on its community development committee, represent the city on the steering committee.
He was hopeful the steering committee could visit the sites being considered for the community center in the coming weeks, Friend said. The three possible sites all owned by the school district that BCRC officials shared with the City Council and Baldwin school board this month were the Ruhlen property north of the high school; a property once earmarked for a community center at Bullpup Drive and Elm Street; and the vacant city block east of Sixth Street between Chapel and Dearborn streets.
Also still in play as a possible site was the old middle school on Chapel Street, Friend said. The school board agreed in September 2013 to sell the old school and neighboring South Gym to the Flint Hills Holding LLC for $90,000, and the deal closed earlier this year.
Flint Hills subsequently sold the South Gym to Steve Bauer, who said he would use it for a shop for his woodworking projects and it would not be part of any community center project.
The old school also may not be available. Tony Krsnich, president of Flint Hills Holding, said selling the building to another party was the company’s third option behind two plans to renovate it into apartments.
Should Flint Hills sell the old middle school for use as a community center, it could be renovated into a fitness center, senior center and spaces for other community needs. A new structure, which would enclose a gym, elevated walking trail, pool and other features, would connect to the rear of the old school, Friend said.
Once a probable location was selected, the BCRC board then would have an architect develop preliminary plans and estimates, Friend said.
Those would be shared with the stakeholders and the public at town hall meetings. At updates to the city council and school board, BCRC representatives suggested the town hall meetings would be scheduled for January. Friend said Friday they would probably be delayed until preliminary plans and estimates were available.