No to current ERCC plan to locate on school campus

There are two camps forming over the proposed Ely community recreation complex. Those who want it to be located on school grounds and those who want it anywhere but there.
We would propose a third camp be set up: Looking at options that enhance, not endanger the future of the school district and that strive to never use tax dollars to compete with private enterprise.
The Ely Regional Community Complex board seeks to develop a facility on the school campus that could be as large as 50,000 square feet and cost as much as $12 million. Of the $12 million, $5 million would come from state bonding money.
First, two reasons the school board should vote no.
1. The devil’s in the details.
The school board has been asking for details on how the district would be impacted. They’re still waiting for answers. Question number one: Who will own the facility? Crickets.
That’s an important question because the answer carries a 37.5 year anchor. Bonding dollars carry more baggage than a 747. You want the money, you have to sign on the dotted line.
“A public entity that enters into a use agreement with a nonpublic organization for operation of a state bond-financed facility is ultimately responsible for the operation of that facility. Even if the nonpublic operator cancels or walks away from the use agreement, the public entity remains responsible for operating the public program.”
Take the money and you take all that goes with it. No matter if it’s the school, the city or the county (highly unlikely), a group of local taxpayers are on the hook for the next 37 years.
2. Free enterprise in a free country
There’s also no room for government to trample on free enterprise. We have local business owners who have worked hard, paid their taxes and been a valuable part of the community. They have every right to continue to do so and not compete with an entity financed by tax dollars.
The ERCC plan calls for direct competition with several local businesses. The ERCC board knows they could kill these businesses but without that component, they can’t get their numbers to work.
It’s questionable that the numbers work anyway with a budgeted $190,000 per year loss. Back to the bonding language, if the ERCC board goes defunct, the owner (whoever that is) would be left holding the bag and paying the bills.
There’s two reasons to vote no. The details are missing, meaning the board is being asked to buy a pig in a poke. And government needs to stay the hell out of private enterprise.
Now, how about that camp we were talking about earlier? Is there a way to improve our community without tearing it apart? We think the answer is yes.
First, Ely has been very supportive of our local school district. Every bond referendum has passed in recent history. If the board and administration present an issue to the public, even one that raises taxes, the public has continually voted yes.
Let’s do that again. The administration and the board need to decide if more gymnasium space is needed. If the answer is yes, call your local engineer or architect, have some plans drawn up with an estimate attached. Run the numbers on the cost and present it to the voters. Problem one solved.
The issue of a swimming pool isn’t so easy. Remember the anchor analogy? Apply that here. The district got out of the pool business years ago and even delayed the decision by purchasing a motorized cover system to try to save on the cost of heating the water.
Those costs haven’t gone down and that’s why there isn’t a competition level pool here. Maybe the pool issue needs to be examined further. If the community can live with private enterprise doing the cardio and wellness areas and support more gym space at the school, perhaps the unknown donor would be in support of building a pool facility along with an endowment to foot the bill. Without tax dollars.
Maybe there’s another solution out there nobody has thought of yet. We’re willing to keep an open mind on this issue. We believe the school board and the ERCC board should do the same.