Nikiski center project moves along

Posted: Friday, January 07, 2005

The North Peninsula Recreation Service Area has developed a revised plan to convert part of the old Nikiski Elementary School into a community center, said Karen Kester, recreation director for the service area board.

Details are still being worked out, but Kester said the gym will be ready by the beginning of February and the rest will hopefully be ready by the end of July — pending approval from the NPRSA.

The plan would use only part of the school, including the gymnasium, some classrooms and a group meeting room, she said. The classrooms would have pool tables and be used for various recreation activities, she said.

Events already are planned for the gym in February. A schedule can be picked up at the pool. To have a copy mailed, call 776-8800.

Last year, a vote was held to cap the amount of spending on capital projects at $500,000 without the public's consent, Kester said, adding that this was in response to a proposal to convert the old school into a community center.

The original recreation center proposal had a $1.1 million price tag, she said. The community passed the spending cap. The NPRSA then backed away from the original project.

Funding for development of the revised community center would come from a state grant the community was given in 2002.

Kester estimated the new project would cost $60,000. The money would be used to build fire doors, exits and to make sure unused parts of the building are adequately blocked, she said.

The gym and the other rooms would only be accessible from the outside, she said.

The NPRSA already has spent about $13,000 to repair the gym floor, which is not included in that price tag, she said.

"There is still life in this building," Kester said.

James Price, an elected member of the NPRSA, was an opponent of the original proposal. He said it is his interpretation that the state grant cannot be used for construction.

Price said at this point, he is opposed to the revised community center plan.

"I question whether the people want this," he said, adding he would like to see the community vote on it first.

Price said he is concerned about revenue reductions for the community and thinks it may be difficult to support existing services — let alone new ones.

Nigel Laricca, Nikiski pool supervisor, said he is supportive of the revised project.

"I think it will be great for the kids around here and even fun for the adults," he said.

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