To The Daily Sun,
At the March 12 Town Meeting, Moultonborough voters will be asked to vote on a proposed $6.5 million gym/community center and the bond to fund it. In order to make an informed decision, voters need all the facts, and other options should be fully vetted first. The public hearing on the bond is scheduled for this Thursday, Feb. 4, 6:30 p.m. in the Moultonborough High School auditorium.
The fact is, both school and recreation enrollments are declining. Declining student population is prevalent throughout the Lakes Region and statewide, with no end in sight. Before taxpayers are saddled with $6.5 million in debt, shouldn't they be absolutely sure that this project is based on facts and needs, not wants and fictitious numbers?
The schools and recreation departments managed with the present facilities when school enrollment was 750-plus students and Moultonborough's population was estimated at just under 5,000. What is the logic behind building a $6.5 million gym/community center when school enrollment is projected to fall under 500 in the next several years? Both the economy and the town's population are in flux.
According to information from the Recreation Department and the Branley Report, recreation participation numbers were highest in 2007 at 557 participants, and 23 teams. Today's recreation participation number is 121 with 9 teams. It's difficult to justify the need for a $6.5 million recreation complex based on declining numbers.
The town's recent presentation showed usage for the grammar school gym at 96.3 percent. This information was taken from paper schedules. Decisions and recommendations should be based on actual gym usage and attendance records, not paper schedules. Effectively using the multipurpose room/gym at the grammar school (MCS), for basketball practices and other after school activities for grades K-6, would free up the larger gym at MCS.
At the Jan. 28 informational session, the revised presentation showed the proposed facility would be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. Meredith's Community Center's hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is closed on Sunday. According to Meredith's recreation director, longer hours of operation were tried but were not proven cost-effective. Meredith's Community Center is staffed with three full-time employees, excluding maintenance personnel. Moultonborough's Recreation Department has three full-time staff, one part-time secretary and a request for two additional part-time staff for the new facility, should it go through.
Moultonborough, with a population of 4,078, already has more recreation staff than Meredith with a population of 6,300.
Based on declining school and town population, and declining Recreation Department user numbers, it's difficult to justify the need for a facility of this size and scope. The town owns the Lions Club property, which hosts numerous functions and is home to many community organizations. Why hasn't properly rehabbing that property been presented as a real option to voters?