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UD-3 board OKs study of Creek Road site for rec center

MIDDLEBURY — The UD-3 school board on Tuesday evening unanimously agreed to keep a district-owned Creek Road parcel in play for potentially hosting a new town recreation center.
The panel came to that decision after a brief discussion about the town of Middlebury’s recreation center plan and how such a facility might benefit UD-3, which includes Middlebury Union middle and high schools.
It was in 2000 that UD-3 agreed to pay Middlebury American Legion Post 27 a total of $275,000 for the roughly 2-acre parcel and building off Creek Road. That parcel currently provides a parking area for users of the surrounding Little League, lacrosse and other playing fields. The former Legion hall is vacant and has been deemed unsalvageable by UD-3 officials, who were told a few years ago that it would cost upwards of $65,000 to demolish and remove the structure.
Plans currently call for an 11,507-square-foot recreation center that would replace the current municipal gym at the intersection of College and South Main streets. The most recent design shows several elements that appeal to UD-3 directors, including:
•  Demolition of the old Legion hall.
•  The potential for a small building addition that would include locker rooms, showers and restrooms to accommodate athletes, who must now either show up at the Creek Road playing fields dressed or change in vehicles in the parking lot. The restrooms would more than supplant two portable latrines at the site. The locker-room addition would be the financial responsibility of the UD-3 school district, which encompasses Middlebury and six other towns whose athletes use the Creek Road playing fields.
•  A structure that could provide shelter for athletes in inclement weather.
•  Adequate expansion space for an indoor turf playing field, should the community decide to invest in such an amenity in the future. Such a facility would likely result in elimination of the Little League field.
“I was thinking this might be a way to solve some of the problems not directly related to education, but they do reflect the quality of the sports program we have at the high school,” said UD-3 Facilities Committee Chairwoman Lucy Schumer. “It would get rid of an old building and provide some safety to our students. For that reason, I spoke at the facilities committee in favor of this proposal.”
Leonard Barrett, chairman of the UD-3 board, also supports the idea.
“I think it’s a good space for that building to go,” Barrett told his colleagues.
But Barrett stressed the next move is up to the Middlebury Town Office & Recreation Facilities Steering Committee and Middlebury selectboard. The steering committee must recommend to the selectboard one of two sites currently in contention to host the recreation center. A spot off Mary Hogan Drive, in the town’s recreation park, is also very much in the running.
The steering committee is scheduled on Dec. 17 to pick a preferred site to refer to the selectboard. If Creek Road is picked, UD-3 board members will want to learn more details about the project, including the potential terms of an agreement between the school district and town regarding use of the property. At this point, UD-3 officials anticipate the district would maintain ownership of the site and enter into some kind of lease arrangement with the town.
Laura Lass, UD-3 board member from Salisbury, voiced concerns about potential traffic and safety issues that might be created by the recreation center. MUHS Principal Bill Lawson and steering committee Chairwoman Nancy Malcolm said the town has received a grant to make Creek Road upgrades, including sidewalk installation, next year.
Devin McLaughlin, UD-3 board member from Middlebury, said he too had some questions about how a deal could be consummated with the town for use of Creek Road property. But he added he likes the idea so far.
“I support the concept in principle,” he said. “I think it’s a win-win.”
In other action on Tuesday, the UD-3 board — by a narrow majority — agreed to advance a 2014-2015 budget that calls for an overall 2.8 percent increase compared to this year’s spending plan. It’s a budget that would result in some substantial cuts to the MUMS spending plan, including two teacher layoffs and a reduction from four to three academic teams. But the board will not take a final vote on the budget until at least Dec. 18. The Addison Independent will feature more coverage of the UD-3 budget discussions in the Monday, Dec. 9, edition.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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