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Join in discussion on public facility sale and use

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Here's your chance to take part in the process of shaping our valley's future. Next Tuesday, beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the Lake County Courthouse, you'll have a chance to express your view and hear many others that will help decide how public use facilities will shift in the not-too-distant future. 

The Lake County Commissioners are hosting a meeting in their office that afternoon to hear comments and discuss the proposed sale of the Ronan Community Center, which also houses the Lake County Extension Office. The center and the land it sits on will eventually become obsolete when the Mission Range Event Complex (MREC) is built west of Ronan on Mink Lane. 

On all the proposals I've heard under consideration for the MREC, the new facilities would provide office and facility space for the county's Extension Agents, fairground facilities, and a place to host community events, just as the current facility has done for so many years. The MREC land has been purchased or donated, but the actual building of the facility has lagged behind over the past three years because construction funds and grants have yet to be finalized. 

The idea, as I understand it, is that the sale of the old community center would provide seed money of sorts to spur on development of the MREC facilities. That's not a bad plan, if it all works out.

The catch is now who would purchase the land and facility that encompasses the current community center and how would it be put to good use, let alone how much they would pay the county.

There are at least two very deserving organizations that have stated their desire to take over the old community center facilities. 

The Boys and Girls Club chapter has been looking for a permanent home for several years and the close proximity of the old community center to Ronan School seems to be an ideal solution for the club. Club director John Schnase and I have more than a few discussions regarding the facility dilemma that the club has been facing ever since the plan for U.S. 93 reconstruction plans called for the removal of the current building. 

John's hope is to be located close to the schools it supports and being located right across the parking lot from Ronan's schools has got to be at or near the top of the club's preferences. The club has been close to tapping some plentiful grants, but needs a permanent facility to clear hurdles attached to the grants.

Equally interested in the Ronan School District. The district is literally boxed in by private property with only one direction to grow — to the north into county-owned property that encompasses the current fairgrounds. Eventually the school district will need to build additional facilities and nobody I know of suggests we split our school facilities up at various locations in town. 

Both would be good uses of the facility and there may be others to consider. But only one use can be chosen.

So, if you care about how those facilities might or should be used, I'd encourage you to attend the meeting on Tuesday. If you'd like to submit written comments, drop them off at the commissioner's office or mail them to: Board of Lake County Commissioners, 106 4th Ave. E., Polson, MT 59860.

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