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North Crawford moves forward with planning of fitness center
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The architectural firm HSR Associates encouraged the North Crawford School Board to begin meeting with the community to discuss plans for a proposed new fitness center.

“The board has to be unified in its approach and have its most important questions answered before presenting this to the public,” said architect Daniel Blumer, who urged the board to formulate any questions they still needed answered.

Blumer noted the current fitness center plans had already identified the smallest amount of space that will meet the school’s needs.

“We need to be able to show all the costs and how we’ll pay for this,” commented board member Judy Powell. “We need to show them what this will look like.”

The architect advised the board to show the public several options and use community input to finalize the fitness center plan that will then go to a referendum for funding. The current plans for the fitness center building are $1.2 million.

“Our purpose is not to serve just our classes in the future, but the community as well,” said North Crawford School District Administrator Dr. Dan Davies. “If this goes to referendum and we only win by 51-percent, that will feel like a failure because we did not engage the community adequately.”

The proposed fitness center at this point would involve a partnership with Vernon Memorial Healthcare. For instance, VMH might be able provide staffing at the center, as well as equipment maintenance and management. The Viroqua-based hospital and its associated clinics could also use space within the facility for rehabilitation of local patients.

It was noted by North Crawford Elementary School Principal Brandon Munson that the center could be open to community use more than just before and after school hours, as it would not be scheduled for physical education use every period of the school day.

Fitness equipment decisions could be altered once the board had a better idea what the community wanted, noted the school’s Pep Grant administrator Tarasa Lown. North Crawford was previously selected to receive a federal PEP Grant, which funds programs and equipment aimed at increasing fitness and wellness among students and staff and ultimately the broader community.

The district plans to use federal PEP Grant money to purchase the equipment for the proposed fitness center.

During a discussion of how to approach the public about the fitness center proposal, Michael Bedessem suggested having models of the building and other information available in the halls of the school during the Christmas concerts.

Blumer said HSR personnel could man a booth and be on hand to answer questions.

Morga said he believes the proposal needs to be brought out before the Christmas season. He believes a decision should be made in early January as to whether a referendum authorizing funding to build the fitness center should be included in the spring election.

“Is there anyone who thinks this is a bad way to go?” Morga asked. Board members present seemed to think it was a reasonable course.

Financing options of funding the $1.2 million should be worked out so they can be presented to the public. He noted the amount seems less daunting if a payment schedule for 20 years is worked out.

Dr. Davies asked the architect if the project could qualify for a zero-percent-interest loan. Blumer said he did not know, but others in the HSR firm would have an understanding of financing the project.

Davies told Blumer that any presentation to the public should include anticipated revenue sources.

After more discussion about possible hours, utilization and other concerns, Morga told the other board members and the architect “I think we have a direction."

The next meeting on the fitness center will include and some final answers to board questions and a plan for the rollout of the proposal to the community, Dr. Davies explained after the meeting.