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County recreation center committee starting to collect input from city officials

By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate reporter

The committee formed to review a proposal to construct a community recreation center has started informing the cities in Carbon County about the project and is asking for input from the officials.

If constructed, the county recreation center would probably house swimming and athletic facilities along with a super library and a fine arts center,

"We are here to put out these ideas in a public forum so we can collect ideas and people's feelings about such a project," explained county economic director Delynn Fielding as he presented the concept to the Helper City Council last week.

The committee, which consists of representatives from Carbon County, College of Eastern Utah and Price city, made a similar presentation about the proposed project to Wellington officials Wednesday night.

At the Helper meeting, the council members appeared to support the ideas presented regarding the proposed project.

But the Helper officials wondered how the expense associated with building and operating a community recreation facility would be covered.

"We have looked around at other areas to see how they have financed similar projects," explained Fielding. "We see three major options. One is a ZAP tax, a bond election or setting up another special service district."

A ZAP tax is designed to generate funding for zoo, arts and parks projects. As set up in Salt Lake County, the measure generates funds from an increase in sales tax in an area.

Fielding said that a ZAP tax in Carbon County could equate to something like one-tenth of 1 percent, much like Salt Lake's levy.

While the community recreation project is still in the conceptual stages, the proposal has moved along quite a ways from when the idea initially emerged more than one year ago.

Fielding told the Helper mayor and council that Price city is going to receive a grant from the Utah Community Impact Board to conduct a feasibility study on the idea.

Councilman Chuck Buchanan said he thought Helper could aide the situation by providing information from a survey the city complete last year to the committee for review.

"There is a lot of information in that survey," pointed out Buchanan. "We asked a lot of questions about what people would like for recreation and things to do in the area," he told the gathered audience.

The concept of a combined CEU-Price city library is at the heart of the community recreation center project. The concept would be to have the public and academic libraries housed under one roof, but operating separately.

The proposal calls for combining the present Price swimming complex, the super library and a new fine arts facility the college plans to build in the next few years.

One of the problems with creating a new facility is the matter of long-term maintenance and operation.

Often, public entities can find ways to obtain money to build the facilities. However, the cost of running the facilities frequently kill the projects.

According to proponents of the advantages of constructing a community center, the facility would have combined operational funding from the college (state money, Price city and Carbon County.

But the plan is not without opposition and several negative comments were voiced by the crowd gathered at the Helper council meeting.

"The economic situation in Carbon County is poor," said Ron Mutz, a local resident. "Helper is a retirement community. If you want to do something like this, you need to get the money somewhere else than from the people who live here. Even a one percent increase is a lot of money for someone on a fixed income."

Comments such as those are one reason the committee is going around to the city meetings to gage how people feel and determine if there is support for the idea, noted Fielding.

"I feel our energies are sometimes misdirected," commented Helper citizen and county board of education member Walt Borla. "There are a lot of property foreclosures going on."

"The school district is continually losing students, which affects its funding. I think we ought to concentrate on bringing industry here instead of spending money on things, all of which we already have spread around the county. There are libraries and gymnasiums here already," added Borla.

Fielding pointed out that attracting business into the area is basically his primary focus as the county's economic development director.

The most recent efforts have included making trips to Kentucky and Virginia in the last couple of weeks to work with potential industries that are considering moving to the local area, revealed the economic director.

"You have some very valid points," indicated Fielding in response to the concerns raised by residents in attendance at the Helper City Council meeting. "This type of thing can be a two-edged sword."

"Sure, it costs money to build it. But it also can increase the attractiveness of a community to industry to move to a location," pointed out the county economic director.

Buchanan, a local businessman, chimed in on that side of the discussion.

"If you don't have something to offer industry, you aren't going to get industry," stated Buchanan. "There is a culture structure in this state that limits what people can do. We must have amenities to attract outside business here."

The committee will continue to make presentations on the project to various agencies in the county.

On March 2, a meeting will be conducted to discuss the feasibility grant study.





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