Director pleads case for fixing Whitehall Recreation Center

B y Lee Tugas

Whitehall Recreation Director Julie Egan doesn’t care how it’s done, but she feels the Rec. Center needs to be fixed.

“This place is used by the broadest spectrum of town and village residents, from children to seniors.” Egan said. “And it is free.”

“I would love to get a $400,000 grant, but there are other ways, too. I would love to get a few thousand to scrape and paint the outside walls.”

The Whitehall Town Board has given itself the month of March to decide whether or not to apply for a $400,000 state grant, negotiated through Shelter Planning and Development Inc. of Queensbury, which would rehabilitate the center from bottom to top.

Two sticking points are the $9,500 grant application and the fact that if approved, the pay scale for workers would be set at prevailing wage.

The mood of skeptics on the village board was summed up, at the meeting, by Councilman Dave Hollister:

“All I know is with grants you throw money to the wind. You spend $4 to get $1. Our chances are slim,” he said.

Egan says the grant chase is a gamble

“I can understand Dave Hollister’s point,” said Egan, who is also village judge. “It really gets to be a gamble.”

Egan knows whereof she speaks. It was her grant writing that netted the town and village a $60,000 grant to consolidate services at the new municipal center. That money, which has not been tied to any “prevailing wage” standard, will by the end of the month, build a new town and village court.

But Egan is the first to state that it is far easier to get a grant through the Office of Court Administration than a community block grant from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development funneled through the state’s new Consolidated Funding Application Program.

“With the J-Cap grants,” she said, meaning the court administration grant, “they want you to apply.”

Presses need for work at recreation center

Still, in a recent interview at the center, Egan pointed out the major flaws in the center that village residents and officials might consider fixing. She pointed up to the ceiling, where two slender cylinders stretched across part of the length of the recreation center.

These, she said, were heating pipes, fueled, she believes, by either propane or heating oil.

“Our heat comes from the ceiling, not from air vents or from radiators,” Egan said.

She also pointed out a structural crack in the floor of the recreation center, to its lack of adequate lighting, and to the fact that water runs through the front door into the senior center because of the way the sidewalk is graded.

At the recent town board meeting, Councilwoman Stephanie Safka, who supports renovating the facility, cited two other problems: “exposed pipes” and two front doors in “horrible condition,” which lets cold air stream in during the winter.

Center used year-round by large population

Egan, meanwhile, justified the need for state money, local money, or simply local support on the fact that the center serves a population conservatively estimated at 1,000 people year round.

“During football season, it is 400 people,” Egan said.

Beside the senior citizen wing of the building, Egan stated that the recreation center is the base for the following programs: youth baseball and wrestling; girls’ softball; the programs for small children, offering arts and crafts, tennis, badminton and dodge ball; and youth league football in autumn.

At the recent town board meeting, Supervisor George Armstrong noted that the center was also used by a number of community groups including Weight Watchers, Weight Challenge, a Tai Chi group and Alcoholics Anonymous.

Which returned Egan to her main point –– that the center was the building, in both the town and village of Whitehall, used by the widest spectrum of its population.

“We have people from Queensbury driving up to use our free programs. If anyone does deserve a grant, we do,” she said.

 

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