Volume 7, Number 4 - April 19, 2007
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County in need of community center
With many aspects of Sublette County growing and an increasing number of facilities becoming overwhelmed by space limitations the idea of a community conference and arts center has surfaced.
At the April 13 county commissioners meeting approximately 30 members of the community were in attendance showing support and encouraging the commissioners to help the project move forward.
Community liaison for the fine arts center group Jo Crandall informed the council of the work that had been completed to this point thanks in part to the funds granted by the county commissioners for a feasibility study approximately 10 months ago.
According to Crandall, work completed includes determining proposed uses for the facility, surveying local interest, assessing construction costs, researching different sources of funding and looking at management studies.
The group foresees 3-5 acres of land necessary to complete such a project with possible expansion, including an auditorium and complimentary buildings.
According to Crandall, agencies such as BOCES, the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, government agencies and non-profit organizations have been contacted for further information.
The fine arts group has also contacted or traveled to a number of different facilities for research, including buildings in Sheridan, Gillette, Casper, DuBois, Jackson Hole, Rock Springs and Rapid City, S.D. According to Crandall, the group looked at ownership management at these facilities and found that all of the facilities were used as a source of economic development.
Crandall cited DuBois as an example for successful economic development, saying that when the city purchased and renovated a museum in DuBois a bed tax brought in approximately $4,000 in revenue. Today the tax revenue is up to $25,000.
“There is an infrastructure need that is not currently being met (in Sublette County),” Crandall said. “This could be a source of diversified economic development. We need a more formal steering committee and need to know there is money budgeted so we can begin to develop a timeline. That is why we are here – to ask the commissioners for help moving on.”
County Commissioner Chairman Bill Cramer asked Crandall if all the money that had been budgeted for the feasibility study had been spent.
Crandall said not all $30,000 had been spent; however, most of it had been.
“We’d like money to develop preliminary drawings, travel to visit other facilities, for part-time secretary help and other things,” Crandall said.
A survey sent out by the group to 49 organizations and groups had 27 responses (55-percent return rate), and according to Crandall, were “generally very favorable” for the fine arts facility.
“Places like Rendezvous Pointe, the fire hall, courthouse and library have been generous in allowing people to use their space,” Crandall said. “We’re not proposing something to replace existing facilities, but rather to be complimentary and fill other needs.”
Cramer also mentioned that there is no secure gallery space in the county – no place to put exhibits.
“The center had a lot more support than anticipated,” she said. “A lot of people would like to take art classes or practice their art. They are also interested in things like dance, pottery, music and painting. It was surprising to us how many various uses people were interested in.”
Crandall spoke to the need of another theater because of the intense growth of the school district.
“This is something that is more pressing than we thought,” she said. “People want the Arts Council to expand its programming.”
The commissioners then spoke to the meeting attendees offering encouragement and suggestions.
“I think you have a great idea,” Cramer said. “I see this as a big project. We are getting a lot of requests for a lot of projects. There is no way we’re going to be able to fund all the requests that come in. Maybe it’s time we step up and ask if we should do a 1-percent capital facilities tax. Maybe we should put it to the voters.”
Cramer said he doesn’t mind the group “moving forward along the lines they are now,” but they need to start thinking about other funding options.
County Commissioner John Linn said he’d like to see the town take the lead on this project.
“I think you should make your pitch to them,” he said.
County Commissioner Joel Bousman agreed with Linn and Cramer saying he felt it wasn’t necessarily a county project.
“This kind of project is a worthwhile community project, but maybe the town should take some leadership,” he said. “There is a need for the county to get a definition of all the impacts with this energy boom. We need help from the state and governor’s office. We need to increase our bargaining power with the energy industry. I think the tax is a good idea, but we need to have a broader approach than just the county.”
Meeting attendees were then given an opportunity to voice their opinions.
One community supporter spoke about the need for a facility to host the Pinedale High School prom and homecoming. Another stressed the limited flexibility at the auditorium. Chamber Director Kim Andrews told the commissioners there is not only a need for art-related events, but for other things such as workshops, board meetings, luncheons and expos.
Cramer told the group this was a great opportunity to provide for the community.
“This isn’t something that is going to happen over night,” he said. “However, I’m encouraged to see this much support.”
Crandall said the next step is to get interested parties together and visit about land, different sources of funding and get a more detailed description of the plan out to everyone in the community.
“This is a need that not everyone sees if they aren’t involved with meetings and these type of events,” Crandall said. “I’ve been pleased with the community support.”
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