Council ponders cost, time frame for new gym

BUCKHANNON — Mayor David McCauley has pledged the city will break ground on the new Stockert Youth and Community Center multi-purpose gymnasium and auditorium within one year. But several council members have raised questions about not only the price tag on the building, but also the projected timeline.

During a special opening statement focused on life’s fragility and the positive aspects of Buckhannon at council’s May 3 meeting, McCauley said, “Within a year, we will break ground on our new gymnasium auditorium.”

Later in the meeting, following SYCC executive director Debora Brockleman’s report, councilman David Thomas said he was skeptical that the new facility— which will be attached to the SYCC — will only cost $400,000.

“I just want to throw out a caution to the council that we need to make sure that this $400,000 is not set in stone, and the reason why I say that is I believe again, that we don’t know what the cost is going to be for the multi-purpose room yet,” Thomas said. “We have to see what the renderings and the prototype are and what different issues are going to be there, so it could be a lot more than $400,000.”

Brockleman said $400,000 would just cover “the basic building” but no amenities.

“I think we’ll have to do more fundraising,” she said. The SYCC board of directors has scheduled a community public forum to brainstorm fundraising ideas on Monday, July 23, McCauley announced recently.

Thomas said the city also needs to assess exactly how much it will cost to maintain and operate the facility.

“I think we have to take a look at what that amount is going to be, whether it’s basic or beyond the basic,” he said. “Also, I have asked … but what are the ongoing operating costs for utilities and staffing and so forth? That’s very important.

“David (McCauley), I don’t want to take issue with what you’re suggesting as far as groundbreaking a year from now, but I would be shocked if we’re able to do that,” Thomas continued, addressing the mayor. “That’s a goal, possibly, but that’s a very lofty goal. What you’re doing, Debora, and the Stockert Youth and Community Center is a phenomenal thing for Buckhannon, and we’re probably the only city that does it in the state of West Virginia.”

Although it’s important to be optimistic about the new facility, Thomas said building the gymnasium/auditorium “the right way” might take two to three years.

On heels of that discussion with Brockleman, public works director Jerry Arnold informed council he and city engineer Jay Hollen will soon finalize a preliminary blueprint and budget numbers for the cost of the new SYCC multipurpose auditorium/gymnasium.

“We hope to have something cranked out in the next week or two so that you have a little better idea of what we’re talking about with building numbers,” Arnold said.

Arnold said the $400,000 figure Brockleman had referred to is “simply to fulfill the need of another space to practice and/or play games in it.”

“It does not include all the amenities that would come along in it,” Arnold explained. “Kind of the way I envision putting the budget together is having that base ($400,000) building and then have different things broken out. For instance, we know bleacher seating is about $110,000, so that would be another portion of the budget. There would be $20,000 for bleacher seating that could be a contribution from one donor that would get their name possibly on the bleachers.”

There will be “different facets to the design and budget” that will be listed in addition to what Arnold called the “base building package.”

The $400,000 covers the cost of the building, a concrete floor, HVAC and lighting, he said.

“It’s just the basics,” Arnold said. “It does not include bleachers or locker rooms.”

City recorder Susan Aloi cautioned council and the SYCC board about how they market the capital campaign.

“I think we just need to be careful how we fundraise for this if it’s going to be [a basic building] and does not initially include amenities that are traditionally part of an auditorium,” Aloi said.

Councilman Robbie Skinner said potential investors would be more likely to donate money to a project “that is done right versus just [the basics],” adding that if he were an investor, he would want to invest in a project with long-lasting benefits that was well thought-out.

Arnold said the building will be built “right,” adding that the facility can be outfitted in phases.

“With that overall budget, we’ll get to that point that Robbie’s talking about,” he said.

Aloi said she wants the city to be clear about what the $400,000 figure will actually fund.

“I’m just worried that we’re promoting it as an auditorium and if it’s not going to have the facilities to be able to do that, it’s a little misleading,” Aloi said. “But if we say we’re phasing it in, that might be [more appropriate].”

Arnold said the biggest issue with breaking ground on the building is securing the property on which to build it.

“We don’t currently have property to put it on,” he said.

Thomas also said he’s concerned that 75 percent of the users of the SYCC are county — not city — residents.

“Our primary fiduciary responsibility is to city residents,” Thomas said, “so we need to maybe sit down with the county at some point in time and talk to them about this.”

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