Editorial: Vote ‘Yes’ on UD-3 lease of land for town rec building

Voters of the seven-town UD-3 school district will decide next Tuesday whether it is prudent to lease 2.5 acres of land to the town of Middlebury on which to site the town’s municipal gym. The UD-3 board earlier endorsed the project, which would also include a $400,000 bond vote for a 2,000-square-foot addition onto the building to be used for Middlebury Union High and Middle School sporting events.
Here’s why the proposal is a good idea and deserves support from voters throughout the town and school district:
• The proposed municipal gym and accompanying parking area would replace the dilapidated and shuttered building currently on the site. The school district bought the property in 2000 for $275,000 from American Legion Post 27 with the intent to use it as athletic facilities for the adjacent soccer, softball and lacrosse fields, but the building has since been deemed uninhabitable. It is currently a liability to the school district and must be razed. The town’s proposal helps the school district solve that problem and regain value from the land.
• While the 11,500-square-foot municipal gym would be dedicated to town uses, the proposed agreement includes language that would make the facilities available to the general public and school district. That’s just common sense. Language that would give the town programs priority, but make the facility available for school use when not otherwise used is easily done and serves the greater good to the benefit of all taxpayers.
• Parking at the new gym would be even more plentiful for users, including at larger events like Town Meeting (the gym would be the obvious place for that occasion, just as it is today.) And, for most residents, the location of the gym is a 50-50 trade-off; better for some and not as good for others depending on which side of town one lives on.
• For voters who don’t know, student athletes and fans must use a few portable outhouses during sporting events as not other facilities are available. Athletes often change clothes in cars onsite, or in the woods surrounding the fields. No nearby shelter is available for those caught in sudden storms during games. The new facility would solve those shortcomings.
• New space also would be designed for the town’s senior center programs, which we imagine would be a welcome change from the closed-in basement of the current site, and would feature ADA-accessible entranceways, as well as up-to-date restrooms and kitchen facilities. With adequate parking right outside the door, the new facility should be a vast improvement.
• Finally, the proposed 2,000-square-foot addition would feature four team rooms, restrooms, showers and storage space for school district use, and would be paid for by school district taxpayers.
Fears that the town facility might devolve into a new school gym, with town rights shunted aside, are ludicrous and are merely another effort by opponents to sow uncertainty where none exists. The same is true concerning unexpected costs. The architects have made thorough cost estimates and put that in their proposed budget.
To make this proposal a reality, school district and town residents must do two things:
1) Don’t forget to attend the UD-3 annual meeting next Tuesday, Feb, 25 at 6:30 at the MUHS building;
2) Vote “yes” on Article 5 to lease the land to the town for the purpose noted above.
It’s good for all school athletes and their families, plus creates a good value for school district and Middlebury taxpayers.
Angelo S. Lynn

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