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Rec board states its case for gym renovation
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Members of the Effingham County recreation board are pleading with county commissioners to restore funding for the rec department’s gymnasium.

Commissioners, in finalizing the fiscal year 2012 budget, opted to shift $750,000 that had been dedicated to renovations at the gym to a less specific item, after supporters of the Ulmer Park promenade urged commissioners to support that project.

Recreation board members voiced their support for renovating the gym at the rec department.

“The board as a whole, 100 percent, recommends the sales tax money goes to the gym and not to another project that is being considered,” said rec board member Mike Wilson.

“When we saw that the funds had been moved from category where it was dedicated to the gym to a category that was general recreation, we thought that was maybe the first step in not having the gym renovated,” said Jimmy Seckinger.

Wilson said the rec department gym, which is 40 years old, is in disrepair. There are no bleachers in the gym, and the rec department has to bring in temporary seating for crowds.

“It’s not something our county can be proud of when hosting functions,” he said. “It’s not really suited for anything.”

The rec department does have the use of the gyms at the schools — but that use is limited, Wilson and other rec board members said.

“There are times when those gyms cannot be used by the rec department because of school functions,” Wilson said. “A lot of times kids can’t bring water into those gyms and it disrupts the flow of the game when you’ve got to send kids out into the hall to get water. Sometimes you have to send them outside when they get a little overheated or maybe a little dehydrated.”

Said board member Robert Morgan: “We really do need a new gymnasium, not just repairs. The school board works with us and the gyms are OK for practice but not for games. They don’t have scoreboards. We are united in our request that you consider giving us the funds for a gymnasium.”

The rec department also has the use of the old gyms in Guyton and at the school board central office. But Wilson said he has seen nails sticking out of the seats that have torn people’s clothing.

Recreation board member Douglas Kirkland spelled out other problems with the Guyton gym.

“When we are utilizing the gym in Guyton, there is not a restroom or a water fountain in there,” he said, adding they have to use the facilities in another building. “It’s not really a safe environment for a kid to be going out there, depending on the time of night.”

Wilson added that the county has done a lot in recent years to upgrade its other facilities, particularly its baseball and softball fields.

“But it’s time that our kids can go to that is our county’s own that they can be proud of,” he said. “We feel like it’s something that needs to be addressed. Our county needs something it can be proud of when hosting district tournaments. It’s something that’s been needed. It’s something that’s been overlooked for a long time. We feel like that more citizens of our county will benefit from the new gym than they would from the other project.”

The county and the city of Springfield are collaborating on the Ulmer Park project, and the city has said it was willing to up its stake in the funding from $200,000 to $440,000. That would reduce the county’s share to $800,000 from $1 million.

Commissioner Vera Jones thanked the rec board members for their work and said she hoped it didn’t come down to an either-or situation.

“I think most people in the community recognize how important our recreation department is to the community,” she said.