Community center scrapped for offices

INDIAN HILLS - After more than two years of planning and $56,000 in studies, Indian Hills leaders have scrapped plans for a community center and will consider a new office building instead.

The district recently voted to table the community center idea and instead research a proposal from Sunridge Corp. to build a $385,000-office in a complex the company is developing.

The decision is generating controversy both among board members and residents.

"The loser was the residents of Douglas County," said Indian Hills GID trustee Ron Kruse, emphasizing the opinion is personal. "I do feel we got ambushed by the Sunridge Corp."

He says he will seek a ballot question asking if voters want the community center at James Lee Park.

Kruse and Steve Weaver cast the two votes against dropping the plan. Joanne Reikenberg, who voted with Dick Fairfax and Renee Haskell to consider the Sunridge offer, said the community center plan hadn't drawn much of a response from Indian Hills residents and the district has several other major projects under way.

"It was just way too much all at once," Riekenberg said. "It seemed like the timing wasn't right."

Fairfax has requested a review of the costs for offices at either site at the board's March 16 meeting.

District leaders began discussing plans for a community center that would also include office space in 1998. A survey of residents indicated support for the idea, and committees and consultants were enlisted to provide ideas and drawings.

Cost estimates for a 10,346-square-foot building near James Lee Park totalled more than $1.4 million. District leaders said they could pay some of the cost, but also sought community development block grant funding of $395,000 for the community center portion. That request has now been withdrawn.

More recently, a second option to build a separate office in the Sunridge complex surfaced. The district commissioned a second survey with 71 percent of respondents voting to continue with the combined community center-office complex.

Riekenberg acknowledged the survey results but said she doesn't think they accurately reflect residents' opinions. Out of 1,137 surveys released, only 198, or 17.4 percent, were returned.

"It just wasn't enough to warrant spending $1.4 million," said Riekenberg.

Haskell said a community center could be considered again when some of the district's current capital projects are done.

"It's (a community center) not something I wouldn't want to see in the future, but I think we have a lot on our plate," she said.

While Kruse is talking about a ballot question, Indian Hills resident Art Baer wants to rally other residents.

"Something just stinks about this," he said. "I'd like to get that room packed shoulder to shoulder at the next meeting so people could tell the board how they really do feel."


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