LEAD — For the first time in five years, the Handley Recreation Center is debt free, board member Deb Vardiman said Tuesday.
“We closed 2012 in the black, so that was a cause for celebration,” Vardiman said, referring to the many years of financial problems the center has had.
But the debt relief came at a high price to the community. Last year, Vardiman said the Handley Center was forced to close the pool due to HVAC problems and expenses. By closing the pool, the center was able to save about $100,000 a year in maintenance and operation costs. Additionally, officials were able to eradicate a humidity and mold problem that was the result of poor ventilation in the pool area.
“The pool was extremely costly to run and it involved constant maintenance issues,” Vardiman said. “We had a group of people who were very disappointed when we closed the pool. I was one of them. It wasn’t by any means a desire. It was a necessity. It fiscally had to be done.”
The Handley Center’s debt relief can also be attributed to a $35,000 contribution that the city made last year. City Administrator Mike Stahl said the contribution was in addition to the city’s planned $151,000 for the center, and was for the expressed purpose of helping to pay for some major maintenance issues as well as to help with debt relief.
In addition to the city’s contribution, Vardiman said the rec center has been able to save money through fiscal responsibility and by trimming its staff down to the minimum amount. Currently seven people are on the center’s payroll to operate the front desk, do maintenance work, operate the preschool at the armory, and perform various other tasks. And although the center has been operating without a director since October, Vardiman said that has had a small impact on the bottom line.
“We have been solvent since April of 2012,” she said. “It was a continuous thing. It wasn’t just we barely finished 2012. We had made some good decisions and Chris, our previous director, had made some good decisions.”
Though the pool remains closed, and there are still some building maintenance issues to address, Vardiman said the center is making slow progress toward creating a hub for recreation in Lead. Board members are currently researching options for an aquatic center, and although there are no concrete plans for reopening the pool in the near future, it is certainly one of the board’s goals.
“We are looking at aquatic center options and there are a lot of choices out there,” she said. “It’s really exciting and really fun to see all of the things that can be done in that field. It wuld not look like it does now.”
But for right now, Vardiman said rec center board members and staff are focused on creating the best experience possible for the residents of Lead. The Handley Center facility offers a walking track and a combination aerobic/weight room. The armory facility offers an adult new hoops group, Friday night rollerskating, and a preschool. Programming at the Handley Center and the armory includes beach body workouts, boxing, tae kwon doe, alternative education classes, roller derby practice space, and an indoor soccer program. Recently, Vardiman said she has been in contact with the Lead-Deadwood Baseball Association to start baseball practice at the rec center facilities.
But Vardiman said there is much more work to be done.
“The biggest improvement has been our financial change, our fiscal responsibility,” Vardiman said. “As a board member I am not happy with the current status quo. I feel that the rec center can and should be so much more in terms of what the rec center should be offering the citizens of Lead and the theory of recreation centers is that it should be a very vibrant, energetic, active place.”
Currently, Vardiman said there are 135 members of the center. Funding sources for the center include city contributions, membership fees, and contract programming rental fees.
The rec center is open from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information about the center call 584-1113.