Kids to Hayden Town Council: ‘Save the old gym’
Group of kids, ages 5 to 12, speak before town council, school board in favor of saving gym and auditorium
HAYDEN — It’s not often that the Hayden Town Council receives public comment on construction paper. On Thursday, however, Mayor Tim Redmond accepted a stack of comments on colorful paper in support of repurposing what will soon be the former Hayden Secondary School building.
A group of seven kids, ages 5 to 12, presented to elected Hayden officials why they want the building to remain standing.
Hayden’s students will be housed under the same roof at a new school on Breeze Basin Boulevard by the 2021 school year. The school district has funded construction of the new school using funds from a state BEST grant.
Under the terms of that grant, the middle and high schools will be demolished unless another public entity is willing to purchase and operate the building. The town of Hayden is in the early stages of exploring repurposing the building into a community center.
On Thursday, nine Hayden youths spoke to the Town Council and, on Monday, they made a similar presentation to the Hayden School District Board.
Six-year-old Uriah Mendisco read from her letter first, standing on a chair pulled up to the podium. Her voice was quiet as she read her letter to the council. She told them she wanted all kids in the community “to have a safe place to play.”
“I’m here to talk to the council about saving the gym for sports, like wrestling and basketball,” said 12-year-old J.D. Case prior to the town council meeting. Case wrestles in the old gym and practices track there when the weather is too bad to head outside.
“I’ve grown up in that gym,” he said. “Every sport I’ve ever played, I’ve been in that gym.”
He said he’d want people to know that the gym is a fun place and a good place to learn.
Charlotte Caughey, 7, cheers and watches sports games in the existing gym. She told the council she wanted to save the gym “so that it can be a place to play and do arts and perform.” She admitted she was a little nervous to speak before the council.
Her sister, five-year-old Audrey Caughey, wanted to save the gym “so people can play after school.”
When the children finished, the sisters’ mother, Megan Caughey, told the council that the kids wanted to ask what they could do to help save the gym and auditorium.
“What they’re doing is a big help,” Redmond answered. “Spread the word. Let people know that you believe in it and that you would like them to help support it because it’s going to take the rest of this community to stand up and do this for you guys.
“Let me know if you guys want me to come talk to somebody or to help you with something. Just give me a call, because I believe in this, too. I’m happy to work with you, because I tell you what, you are the best ambassadors we could have.”
It was Mendisco’s idea to approach town council.
Her mother, Heidi Mendisco, explained that she’d attended Totally Kids programs in the gym all summer.
“She’d come home every day and talk about wanting to save the gym and auditorium,” Heidi said of her daughter. Uriah wanted to know what she could to do help, and Heidi told Uriah that the best person to ask was her father, Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco.
“I had no influence whatsoever on this,” Mathew said.
The family discussed what Uriah could do, and her father explained that telling people how she felt might be the most effective way to help. He suggested talking to Town Council and told her she could invite friends to come write letters, too.
Heidi invited some of Uriah’s friends to write the letters, and soon, the kids found themselves standing on a chair behind a podium, speaking to the council.
What’s next for the building?
Mathew said the town is using grant funding to partner with Colorado Center for Community Development at the University of Colorado Denver to conduct a study of how the building could be used. As part of this effort, the town plans to hold a series of public meetings, first to explain the process and later to hear ideas and receive feedback on how the building could be repurposed. Child care and dinner will be provided to encourage parents to attend.
Three main roles have been identified that the town would like the space to serve, Mathew added, including seniors, youth and the local organization Totally Kids, which provides day camps and recreational sports teams for West Routt youth.
“We want this to be the community living room,” he said.
That space could include dedicated areas for programming for seniors and youth organizations such as local 4-H clubs.
Mathew said the town does not intend to compete with the private sector, including the Haven Assisted Living Facility, which offers community space for rent at its facilities. He believes this facility could provide a free space for seniors and organizers of community events to gather.
If the town took over the building, the gym and auditorium would continue to be used for athletics and performances. The classroom space could also evolve into makerspace, community and higher education classes and space for community events.
An engineering study is expected to reveal any structural, mechanical or electrical issues the town might face should they move forward in operating the building, as Mathew explained. Results from both the engineering study and the study of potential uses are expected by the end of the year.
The town is also starting to analyze the costs of operating the facility and offering programming, which includes evaluating cost-sharing between the town and organizations that might use the building and the possibility of a sales tax to fund the center.
“Make no mistake about it, we’re going to need full community support to make this happen,” Mathew said. “I mean, 100%, including, probably, a tax issue in November, next year — not a property tax issue, a sales tax issue. It was made very clear by the community that they don’t feel a property tax fits here.”
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In an effort to connect better with their voters, Steamboat Springs City Council members will begin tabling at Ski Free Sundays, which are every Sunday at Howelsen Hill.