This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A proposed wellness/recreational center

The main event at the City Council meeting on Monday evening was a presentation by RCSC Superintendent Ned Speicher of a proposed wellness center. It would be a building with 25,000 square feet located at the east end of the high school. The rendering below shows how it would be located.  (Forgive the poor quality of the pictures. They are photos of what was projected onto a screen during the meeting.) Some of the white roofs are recent replacements. The section with the white roof that is nearest the parking lot is the proposed building. The space is presently lawn.
The building would be a steel building. Facing it with bricks would add another $500,000 to the cost.

As for cost, the estimated cost is $4,800,000. It would be funded by $1.8 million in cash taken from various accounts and $3 million in debt. The debt would not be a new issue but would result from refinancing the 2007 debt issue. There would be no need for an increase in taxes or tax rates. The total amount of debt that the school corporation would owe would be $32 million. The school sees no need for additional buildings or major capital projects in the foreseeable future so this debt should be manageable.

The building itself will be a big empty space. The presentation had pictures of similar buildings at North Montgomery and Wheeler. Both of them reminded me of the Recreation Center at Saint Joseph's College. I am not sure how big that building is, but the proposed building looked about as long but perhaps a bit narrower. Below is a photo of the slide showing the floor plan.

The floor would not be wood but a hard surface. It would be used by athletic teams and the marching band for practice and also be open to the public. At present many people get exercise by walking the halls and they could instead walk the track that would be around the outside of the building. Curtains could isolate various areas so a basketball practice could be taking place alongside a softball practice. The area would connect up to the swimming pool, and the proposed building could make the swimming pool more available to public use.

If a project costs less than $2 million, all that is needed is School Board approval. If it will cost more than $10 million, a referendum is required for approval. This project falls in in the area that has a potentially complicated route for approval. As I understood the process, after School Board approval, those who object to the project can oppose the decision by gathering 100 signatures. That sets into motion a campaign of competing petitions, those for and those against, with the side with the most signatures of registered voters living in the school district winning. If the project gets the go-ahead and there is no opposition, the building could be completed in the fall of 2016.

The next step in the process will be a public hearing at the next school board meeting on February 16 at 7:00. The meeting is scheduled for the Board Room at the west end of the Van Rensselaer School. If you are interested in this project and want to learn more or if you want to voice support or opposition to it, you should attend this meeting. (And it will not conflict with the County Council meeting this month because the Council meeting is on the 23rd. However, the Jasper County Historical Society meeting will conflict. It is scheduled for the 16th at 6:30. The agenda for the evening is to construct a timeline of key events, places, and people to Jasper County's History since the 1950's.)

The presentation argued that this center would improve quality of life for Rensselaer residents. Mr Speicher noted that RCSC students received brochures from three area school corporations enticing them to change schools. He also noted that Rensselaer has had a shrinking middle class and that the number of students eligible for free or reduced school lunches keeps increasing. Rensselaer needs to be competitive with other areas in amenities in order to attract residents.

Again, if you are interested in learning more, go to the meeting on February 16. (The other items of interest at the City Council meeting will be in another post.)

Finally, for those of you who like everything presented in map form, here is a final picture of the proposed building and the rest of the high school.


Anonymous said...

Physical well-being is good. Why is it always about sports?

Places to encourage music, theater, various forms of art have life-lasting aspects.

A high school that promotes/teaches various job skills so a graduate would be ready for at least an entry level job after graduating would be better. One of our foster daughters in another location graduated high school with a CNA. Another grad was a certified welder. That sort of educational option should take precedence over another gym or if you prefer to call it: a wellness/recreational center, IMHO.

Jim Earnest said...

My only concern is a part of what is stated in the previous comment. The design appears to block set building access to the auditorium which could be a concern for the local theater groups. On a positive note, with the recent changes in school finance, this money that the school is talking about using, can only be used for buildings. It cannot be used for programs/salaries, so at least it is something that can benefit the community.

Anonymous said...

There is no need for this. I was on marching band, and we practiced outside. Suck it up buttercup. Buy new books, and put more money into band,choir,auto,welding,agriculture programs. That's a better use of money!

Anonymous said...

Rensselaer is a dying town and the article insinuates that with the shrinking middle class comment. Why waste funds on a Rec center when there are already two fitness centers plus St. Joe's rec? If you want to attract families etc... use that money to open a new wing focused around tech careers or something that will attract not only parental interest but student interest. There's a golden opportunity to offer educational programs that will set RC head and shoulders above the other schools in the area.

anonymous said...

What a joke. Property taxes will be back loaded on the high side for the next several years, and yes our taxes will sky rocket. The administration pushing this will not be around to see these tax hikes.

Anonymous said...

Rensselaer schools total debt on Jan. 1,2016 was 28.9 million dollars. 3 million borrowed on this project increases the total debt to the $32 million.
For comparison, total debt for adjoining and similar school corporations:
TriCounty $3.7M
North Newton $29.5
West Central $5.4
Twin Lakes $6.6
West Laf. $15.6
South Newton $7.0
North White $5.8
Frontier $8.6
Pioneer $9.4
Delphi $8.9

Anonymous said...

Interesting. We used to take great pride in our schools and what they offered in the '70's. Now we are being left behind by our neighbor to the north. Their middle class is not decreasing. Look at their facilities and school grades.

Why is our middle class shrinking? There are some who feel that the only important thing is farming and not really concerned for those who live in the city.

Anonymous said...

Move to KV then i will help you back.

Anonymous said...

Move to KV then I will help you pack.

Anonymous said...

I think this sounds like a great idea! It is my understanding that a committee of school board members, citizens, and administrators formed a committee back in 2009 to decide what our school system needed. #1 New Primary School, #2 Safety and Security of all Schools, and #3 Additional indoor athletic facilities. The first two projects are complete. What am I missing? This doesn't seem like some sinister plan by the School to trick the citizens of Rensselaer and then skip town. The other ideas that people have mentioned sound great too, but those aren't on the table at this time. Let's do this!