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CSD to decide on new gym in Blackstone

By May 9, 2011

Psst … hey buddy, can I interest you in a $3 million gymnasium for just $456,000? The only catch is you need to decide right now.

That’s where the El Dorado Hills Community Services District Board of Directors finds itself on a joint use gymnasium at the new Valley View Elementary School, which breaks ground next week.

Ordinarily, the decision would be a “no-brainer” since Buckeye Union School District has landed state grants that cover over two-thirds of the total cost and the CSD has a strong recent history of joint-use projects with the schools. But the gym wasn’t included in the CSD’s current Capital Improvement Plan. CSD General Manager John Skeel, who inherited the situation, insists that the gym is in the current budget, minus a funding source other than the capital reserve, and that the board has been aware of the project since 2008.

But Skeel knows a bargain when he sees one, and despite the still sluggish economy and a fiscally frugal board, is recommending that the district dig into its reserve and buy in.

The reserve currently contains at $2.4 million, according to CSD accountant Sherry Shannon. After the $456,000 payment in fiscal year 2012-13, it would be down to approximately $1.9 million, barring other reserve usage.

Fiscal conservatives and youth sports advocates will likely square off before the CSD board at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 12, when the matter will be decided at the CSD’s pavilion, 1021 Harvard Way.

The board needs to sign a letter of intent by June to be a part of the 9,079-square-foot multipurpose room.

The new school is located in the heart of Blackstone, Lennar’s eventual 1,500 home project on 990 acres east of Latrobe Road.

At the most recent CSD Parks and Planning committee meeting, Lennar representative Don Barnett reported that two more builders have recently purchased large parcels and will put up models and sell lots this year, adding that other builders are lining up as housing picks up.

“We’ve got 160 families out there now,” he said, “and that number will grow significantly in the next few years.”

Construction of the new school is scheduled to begin in June. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013. Full payment from the CSD would be due December 2012.

Buckeye’s Facilities Director Ray Boike laid out the situation to committee members Tony Rogozinski and Bill Vandegrift, who were receptive but concerned about spending in the current fiscal climate.

The gym would be available for CSD programs after school until 10:30 p.m., and on weekends, at a cost of $11 per hour for electricity. Buckeye will waive janitorial and upkeep fees. Skeel reported that the hourly rate is roughly 15 percent of what it costs the CSD to operate one of its own facilities.

CSD Recreation Supervisor Frank Sianez has his thumb on the demand for recreation facilities in El Dorado Hills. He had input into the design of the gym, and said in a prepared statement, “Having access to a new full-size gym would allow our sports programs to expand, and open the door to new offerings … without the full cost of a gym.”

Pressed for a prediction of if and when the gym would pay for itself, Sianez replied, “The time period to recoup the initial investment will take years, if ever, but the benefits to the community are enormous. The positives outweighing any negatives in my opinion.”

“Cleary there’s a need for more basketball,” said Rogozinski, who is active in local youth sports.

The committee asked Skeel to work with Sianez to research potential usage and payback before Thursday’s board meeting.

The school design is the product of Anova Nexus in Placerville, previously known as Murray & Downs. Charlie Downs attended the committee meeting and described the facility last week. Woodland based Broward Builders won the construction bid.

The multipurpose room will contain six retractable basketball backboards positioned to support one full-court or two short-court games, with motorized screens and curtains to segregate activities. The backboards also lower for youth basketball.

Volleyball nets will be floor-mounted for stability.

The retractable bleachers have room for 106 posteriors. A stage at one end accommodates theatric productions or additional seating for athletic events.

Acoustical panels on the ceiling will reign in the decibel level. The floor is covered with a rubberized, low-impact, low-maintenance “mondo” sports court.

Most of the $3 million cost is funded by state grants. Proposition 47, passed in 2002, authorized the state to sell $13 billion in bonds for school construction and renovation. Proposition 44 passed in 2004, authorizing another $12.3 billion to relieve overcrowding and repair public schools.

Bonds payments are made from the state general fund. After interest, both will cost the taxpayers roughly twice their face value, according to the California Voter Foundation.

Without CSD participation, the gym would likely end up $1.8 million cheaper and 3,000 square feet smaller, said Boike. But more to the point, the state grants would no longer apply.

An umbrella joint use agreement between the school district and the CSD was approved in July 2009. It contains a clause for both the Valley View and Silver Dove school sports parks which requires the two districts to work together and split the costs of an upsized multi-purpose room if grant applications are successful, and contains a clause allowing the respective boards to approve the final costs.

CSD lawyers have interpreted the clause as an “out,” if the district elects not to participate, according to Skeel.

“We don’t agree with their interpretation,” said Boike. “There is no contingency plan. In addition to redesigning the building, it would require re-submitting [the project] to the state for approval, a very lengthy and costly process.”

Whether or not the CSD opts into the gym, they will operate the adjacent 5-acre outdoor sports park, which includes a baseball/softball diamond and a soccer field under the terms of the joint use agreement.

“It’s a lot of money, but it would cost us a lot more to do something like this on our own,” said Skeel. “Plus it seems like goodwill with our joint-use partners is worth something.”

Mike Roberts


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