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School fitness center plan explained
at North Crawford
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The North Crawford School Board heard a lengthy presentation on the proposed fitness center at their regular board meeting last Thursday.

The presenters reviewed the history of the planning process, as well as the current state of the proposal, but emphasized future steps in the process.

Most of the major players were represented at the meeting including representatives from HSR Associates, the architectural firm and Vernon Memorial Healthcare, the organization proposing to run the community-oriented portion of the fitness center. Also present were North Crawford’s Tarasa Lown, who administers the federal PEP Grant, which among other things will provide the fitness equipment for the facility and Anna Davidson, a physical education teacher at the school.

Lown began with an update of work done to involve the community in the fitness center planning process. She also spoke about plans for even more community input in the coming weeks.

Lown told the board that she and North Crawford Director of Maintenance Harry Heisz recently approached the village clerks of Soldiers Grove and Gays Mills, as well as the village president of Gays Mills, with information about the proposed fitness center. She reported the village officials seemed to have a positive reaction and agreed to help disseminate the information throughout the community.

However, the contacts with the village officials are just the beginning of a campaign to bring the fitness center proposal to the community, according to Lown. She went on to tell the board there are plans to share the proposal and solicit input from community leaders, businesses, community groups, churches, fire departments and rescue squads. Additionally, there are plans to present community forums.

An initial presentation to the school community will take place at the winter concerts where information will be available.

An important part of the proposed fitness center is its dualistic approach, providing fitness and wellness space for school use, as well as use by the rest of the community.

Vernon Memorial Healthcare has stepped forward to run the community-oriented aspects of the fitness center. VMH’s Angie Dahl explained the healthcare organization’s plans and vision for the fitness center.

Dahl, who is involved with running a fitness center for VMH located in the Vernon Memorial Hospital, told the board the idea would be to run the community portion of the fitness center at North Crawford in much the same way as the current fitness center in Viroqua.

“The things we offer to the community in Viroqua we would offer here,” Dahl said.

VMH plans to be open from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. with two full-time secretaries and two full-time trainers staffing the facility. VMH would also provide equipment maintenance through the same source they use in Viroqua.

The list of services that VMH might provide at the fitness center was an extensive two-page list. In addition to the fitness training and activities associated with it, VMH would also provide rehabilitation services, screenings and much more.

School board member Judy Powell questioned Dahl about demand for the service and the service area that would be targeted. She also asked how many people the fitness center in Viroqua served.

Dahl said the fitness center in Viroqua had about 3,500 visits between May and August but the number rises to 6,000 or more visits between January and May. She also said that the VMH Fitness Center in Viroqua has 300 active members.

The service area for the VMH Fitness Center in Viroqua is large with people coming from as far away as Boscobel and Cashton, not to mention people from this area, according to Dahl.

VMH plans on expanding the fitness membership to allow their members to use either facility, if the North Crawford fitness center is constructed.

Local resident Monica George questioned the demand for a fitness center.

“Has anybody done a survey?” George asked.

George went on to explain that her son-in-law and daughter, Brian and Vicki Campbell had thought about converting the old food store in Soldiers Grove into a fitness center, but concluded there was not enough demand to justify it.

Dahl indicated a survey had not been conducted. However, she pointed to providing the services in conjunction with the VMH Fitness Center in Viroqua as an idea of where the membership would be found.

Dan Blumer, the architect from HSR Associates, said it was now the time to focus on the public forums for input.

Board member Miguel Morga reminded the board and the project planners that the community use of the fitness center was only an addition to the school’s use.

“The primary focus of the project is not use by the community, it’s enhancing students opportunity of fitness and educating them about fitness for a lifetime,” Morga said.

The board member went on to describe the community use of the fitness center as just one element of the project. He referred to it as “value-added” not the core of the project.

Blumer and Lown had some good news about energy used in the proposed facility. Focus On Energy confirmed assistance was available for school and other public buildingprojects exceeding 5,000 square feet. The proposed fitness center is 5,600 square feet.

Lown told the board that energy costs including heating, air conditioning and electricity were estimated to be slightly more than $10,000 per year. However, she noted that Focus On Energy believed through their input those costs could be lowered by about $2,000 to $3,000 per year. Additionally, she explained that Focus on Energy was willing to pay a “dividend” in the amount of one year’s projected energy cost savings upon construction of the building.

For his part, board member Michael Bedessem said that the board needed to move from discussing the matter with no opinion to a more positive and supportive position on the proposed fitness center.

Bedessem, like most of the rest of the board members, acknowledged the final decision on whether to build a fitness center would be up to the community, when it is placed before them as a referendum.

In other business, the North Crawford School Board:

• heard that Michael Bedessem would be resigning as a school board member because he was relocating to a residence outside the district

• approved changes to an athletic handbook, which would offer unfilled coaching positions to staff members before the general public

• increased the district’s annual donation to the Village of Gays Mills Pool from $500 to $1,000 in light of rising costs

• discussed job description for business manager/bookkeeper and timeline for posting

• approved a request to pay a stipend equal to an assistant coach's salary for a musical/play tech director

• discussed supporting the winter cheerleading effort through assigning a supervisory person to some events in the absence of the coach.

• accepted the resignation of Heidi Olson Stovey, who drives the school van to Prairie du Chien in the afternoons