Sterling community center slated for spring 2013 completion

'Six months in'
Photo by M. Scott MoonThe Sterling community center is nearing completion.

Construction of the Sterling Community Center is progressing smoothly, and people close to the project said they hope the building will open in spring 2013. If the 13,000 square-foot center opens by April, it will have been completed in less than a year.

 

“The concrete foundation was poured the last week of June,” said Sterling Community Club President Bob Oakes. “For a large project like this, we’re doing very well at six months in.”

Builders and electricians will continue to work on the center through the winter. Then, its amenities will be put into place. The club plans to formulate the center’s policies and procedures during winter break work sessions. Most Sterling residents look forward to its completion, the club members said.

The center rests on the same property as Sterling’s original one-room schoolhouse and log cabin post office, not far from the Sterling Highway. It will include a large gym, a library, a kitchen, bathrooms and a locker room. Club trustee Grace Merkes said the club hopes it will be youth-oriented and operating costs will be covered through membership or rental fees.

As of Dec. 19, about 90 percent of the center’s high-voltage wiring and about 80 percent of the low-voltage wiring was complete, Oakes said. Other sections already have been wired, and workers are insulating and placing drywall. The cold weather slowed construction, however.

“It’s hard to push people at these temperatures,” Oakes said. “And it’s hard to pull wire at zero degrees.”

Wiring and insulating the building is most important to its completion, as it needs to be heated, he said.

In a previous interview with the Clarion, club trustee Merkes said the center’s estimated price tag was about $2 million. Currently, the construction is costing $100 per square foot, well below the initial price estimate. The club also has received a $120,000 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation for equipment. The overall cost still sits below that estimation, Oakes said.

The Rasmuson grant will pay for equipment like bleachers and lockers — the placement of which constitutes the center’s next phase toward completion. Merkes said there are plans to apply for additional $25,000 grants through Rasmuson, which encouraged the club to do so.

“(Rasmuson) is supportive of what we’re doing,” Merkes said. “We fortunately got the grant, and they’re going to provide the money before we purchase equipment for some projects; stuff like basketball hoops and bleachers.”

Once the Sterling community center is completed, operations will be funded through rental fees and memberships. The memberships are intended for Sterling residents, people who wish to use the center on a regular basis, Oakes said. The club has not set the prices but hopes to have an idea following the holiday season.

Oakes and Merkes said the majority of community feedback they’ve received since the center’s construction began has been positive. Sterling’s teenagers are excited about their stake in the project. The old school will serve as a teen clubhouse; they’ve submitted the idea of selling concessions to buy table tennis and pool tables.

The whole facility is meant for kids, however.

“It’s mostly for the kids,” Oakes said. “That’s the whole idea, so they have somewhere to go after school.”

The post office will serve as a community museum, or that’s the plan so far.

Some Sterling residents are skeptical about the center’s operational costs, and others have unrealistic ideas about what should be available at the center. They want gym equipment, Oakes said, but that’s not going to happen. Private enterprises capable of hiring fitness trainers should fill that role, he said.

“That’s too much of a liability,” he said. “For the most part, people are digging in and showing their support. It’s going to be used what we originally intended it to be used for.”

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

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