photo by: Elvyn Jones/Journal-World
Baldwin City has received $250,000 in pledged donations to convert the old Chapel Street gymnasium — now called the Bauer building — into a community center, even though no decision has been made to move forward with the project, Baldwin City Councilman Cory Venable said.
Venable shared the pledged total at a Nov. 9 Baldwin City Council meeting. The total was pledged from large businesses and corporate donors. A capital campaign for small donors will now get underway, he said.
Venable told the council that the current pledged donations coupled with the $360,000 in historic preservation tax credits available for a Bauer building capital project would make it possible to complete the estimated $1.5 million conversion of the gym into a community center; the conversion could be done without raising taxes by paying off the first five years of bond payments on the project. After that time, the debt on the Baldwin City Library expansion would be retired, and the city could transfer use of its quarter-cent quality-of-life sales tax from the library debt service to the Bauer project, Venable said.
A second proposal Venable presented at the meeting was an offer to the Baldwin City Recreation Commission to partner in the management of the community center in return for rent- and utility-free office space in the gym. The BCRC board rejected the proposal at its Nov. 10 meeting, sending a letter to the city stating it would consider offers to partner at the Bauer building only when renovations were finished — and then only in consideration with the BCRC’s strategic plan.
Venable’s proposal would have had the city compensate at $25,000 annually a BCRC position to manage and schedule events at the Bauer building, Sullivan Square park, the municipal golf course and club house. The part-time position would have allowed the Bauer building to be open from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.
Venable acknowledged that the public would probably want to expand the number of hours the community center was open and that a Bauer building community center was not the larger recreation center the BCRC had envisioned for the community.
Venable said that given the BCRC decision, the council budget subcommittee he is on is now exploring the cost of managing a community center with city employees.
“We need to get everyone comfortable,” he said. “It’s just talking our way through it and keeping everybody up to speed. That’s how you move it along.”
At the suggestion of City Councilman Scott Lauridsen, the Bauer building will be placed on every City Council meeting agenda so that all members will be aware of developments, Venable said.