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Eminence, EIS to discuss community center ownership

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

Months after it was first suggested by an outgoing city council member, the City of Eminence might consider giving control of the Eminence Community Life Center to the Eminence Independent Schools district.

During the December meeting of the council, former councilman Richard Thomas Jr., suggested the city consider giving the center to the school district, an idea that councilman Danny meadows revived this month. During the council’s March meeting, Meadows suggested allowing city attorney Bill Brammel to discuss the idea with EIS.

Doing so, he suggested, would “leave a lot of funds for us here.”

EIS Superintendent Don Aldridge said Monday that he was meeting this week with Brammell to discuss the options available for such a handover.

Aldridge and the district are open to the idea, and Aldridge said the center would remain open and accessible to the community if EIS became the sole owner and operator.

“When we first started thinking about it, one of the first things I told the board ... we have to continue to operate as a community center and make it available to the community,” he said.

That said, the potential for becoming the sole owner/operator of the facility is alluring to a district that faces crowding in its elementary school. Aldridge suggested it might be possible to “get some extra rooms” for the elementary school.

Should the center be used for extra classrooms, Aldridge said the facility would have to be renovated or new rooms added onto the existing facility. He believes, with no plans set in stone, the center would make an ideal location for the Wee Warriors program, which bounces around in the elementary school because of space and scheduling issues.

Additionally, Aldridge said the district might look to put a new, wooden floor in the gym, creating a second gym for the district.

Currently, the city pays the center’s maintenance and utility bills, and received the rentals fees, while EIS staffs the facility. Aldridge was confident the district could absorb the maintenance and utility costs, which he estimated at $12,000 to $15,000 per year.

Eminence Mayor Jim Pettit said he remains on the fence about giving the center — which the city and school district have operated jointly since 1998 — to the district.

“(We’re) basically just talking about it, nothing is even close to firm,” he said.

Pettit believes the overall rationale for offering the center to the district is to save money, and concern about future repairs. He suggested, however, that the city and school district may be better off if they have a project where they work hand in hand.

“The council will make the final call,” he said. “The only way I’ll have a say is if there’s a tie. I’m still open, I haven’t (made a decision), I’m just listening to the people out there.

“I think we should do what the people want us to do.”

Regardless of what happens, Aldridge said, the city and school district will continue to work together. “Either way, we will still have a good working relationship with the city. If we didn’t have the city, we wouldn’t have a school,” he said.

 

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