(Host) Voters in Rutland will weigh in on whether to relocate and expand the city’s Recreation Department next week.
The $4 million proposal is less costly than one voted down last year. Proponents say it a long overdue investment in the community.
But as VPR’s Nina Keck reports, opponents worry about the price tag.
(Keck) When Rutland’s recreation department moved into an unused elementary school in 1995 – it was supposed to be temporary. Ejay Bishop, superintendent of Rutland’s recreation and parks department, says that’s why the city hasn’t replaced the roof and has only invested in band-aid type fixes for the hundred-year-old building.
(Bishop) "If you’d been in here last week you would have seen about 15 buckets throughout the gym floor to try to keep the kids away from where it was dripping."
(Keck) Bishop says renovating the old building would cost several million dollars. But they’d still not have the kind of space or parking they need.
So, he hopes voters will approve a $3.9 million bond to relocate the department and expand recreational facilities at nearby Georgetti Park. Bishop says the proposal includes a new field house large enough for three indoor basketball courts, artificial turf, a running track, administrative offices and additional meeting space.
(Bishop) "Right now construction costs are low, interest rates are low. I know the economic times are tough for people. But for $15 a year for the average homeowner, it’s a very reasonable cost."
(Duffy) "I think it’s a fabulous idea – but now is not the time."
(Keck) Rutland resident Virginia Duffy says taxes are already too high and the city’s to-do list too long to take on additional debt.
(Duffy) "We have an aging infrastructure. We have bridges that are in desperate need for repair. We have water pipes that are nearly 100 years old. Those things have to be taken care of. So it’s not a matter of if but when."
(Keck) Duffy says the city needs to focus more energy on attracting new businesses and reducing the tax rate is the way to do that.
But Tom Huebner, head of the Rutland Regional Medical Center says there’s more to it.
(Huebner) "People always ask me three things when they consider moving here."
(Keck) Huebner says they want to know about the schools, cultural outlets and recreational opportunities. And he says, frankly, when it comes to indoor recreation, Rutland falls short.
(Huebner) "And this, to me, would be the next great piece when we try to recruit a new doctor, a nurse, a therapist, a technician from away and frankly to retain people so that the folks who are already here have the kind of resources that we would wish for ourselves, for our families, so we can live happy active lives in this community."
(Keck) Voters will decide on Tuesday.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.