Rutland County towns to vote on forming recreation district

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(Host) Rutland County towns are considering whether to build a new indoor recreational facility. On Town Meeting Day, voters in six municipalities will be asked whether they want to create a municipal district for the project.

VPR’s Nina Keck has more.

(Keck) E.J. Bishop, superintendent of the Rutland City Recreation Department, has been trying to generate support for a new indoor pool and recreational facility for years. But he says the project was simply too big for Rutland City alone. So he says area communities may try to pool their resources to do it.

(Bishop) “And to have the city, the town and the other communities like West Rutland and Mendon, Proctor, Wallingford, Clarendon, to name a few, sit down at a table and work with passion on a project has been wonderful.”

(Keck) Voters from the six communities that chose to take part will not be voting for the recreational facility itself and no money is at stake – yet. Rather, they’ll be deciding strictly or whether or not to create a new municipal district. If they vote ‘yes’ on Town Meeting Day a district board will be created to determine a location, design and overall budget for the project. Only after all that’s done will voters be asked whether they want to go ahead and pay for it. Sharon Davis, president of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, hopes they’ll vote ‘yes’ each time.

(Davis) “We have a really wonderful community. We have great schools, a good hospital. But we’re missing some quality of life issues and one of them is recreation. And when we look at economic development in this region, we need businesses to look at this area. And one way to do that is to improve quality of life, and this is one way to do that.”

(Keck) Davis says creating the right design will be important, because this facility will be used for the next 50 to 80 years. And if state track meets or basketball tournaments can be held there, she says the regional economic gains could be huge.

So far the wish list for the center includes a pool and water park, gymnasium facilities, a field house, running track and fitness area. E.J. Bishop says there’s also talk of including a black box theater, outdoor hiking trails, as well as meeting rooms for senior citizens and other local groups.

(Bishop) “Some folks are wondering if there’s something in the facility for them and I’m trying to reassure these folks that we’re trying to design a building that has something for everyone.”

(Keck) Bishop says there are two very promising locations they’re considering for the project and while no budget has been set, he says cost estimates are in the $10-20 million range. Sharon Davis says they’ve already talked to the governor and to Congressman Bernie Sanders about the project and she’s optimistic they can raise the money through private donations, local, state and federal funds.

Mike Kenosh, director of Rehabilitation services at Rutland Regional Medical Center, says from a public health standpoint, it would be money well spent.

(Kenosh) “With childhood obesity and childhood diabetes – these problems happening earlier and earlier – if we can adopt a healthier lifestyle sooner, especially in the climate we’re in, hopefully that will translate into fewer problems as we’re adults.”

(Keck) Organizers say they haven’t heard of any other municipalities in Vermont or elsewhere in the country joining together to create a recreation complex. E.J. Bishop says if successful, their efforts may provide a model for other rural communities.

For Vermont public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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