City Council initially dubious about BV site as new center

       Could the Buena Vista School building work as a replacement site for the West Intergenerational Center? After hearing renovation cost estimates of more than $300,000 at their Feb. 23 council meeting, worried Colorado Springs City Council members authorized a letter from Mayor Lionel Rivera to School District 11.
       “While the City understands the challenges facing District 11 and its need to maximize utilization of school facilities, the possible uncompensated relocation of the West Intergenerational Learning Center would have serious impacts on the City's ability to provide essential community services to the Westside area,” Rivera's letter states in part.
       However, the letter did not stop District 11 from including the possibility in the School Utilitization Plan approved by the Board of Education Feb. 25, and Facilities Director Frank Bernhard said afterward he is confident the matter can be worked out amicably.
       The district proposed the relocation because it wants the space used by the center for classrooms by the start of the 2010-2011 school year. The Reutilization Plan calls for a larger configuration at what is now West Middle School - keeping those students while creating a new elementary combining students from three Westside elementaries that are closing (Buena Vista, Washington and Whittier).
       Bernhard pointed out that Buena Vista's four buildings have more space at 32,000 square feet than the West Center's 8,000 (although the latter, built into West Middle School 15 years ago, has access to all its space when school's out). And, in recent years at Buena Vista “we've put in a new heating system and roof, abated asbestos, replaced all the windows and installed security systems,” he said.
       But the city seemed more concerned about the work that's still needed at the 98-year-old facility. In his presentation to council Feb. 23, Colorado Springs Parks Director Paul Butcher cited a D-11 study that recommended $316,000 in improvements over the next five years. These include upgrades to the heat and ventilation system and replacement water and gas pipes.
       In addition, the city would have an expense making Buena Vista's main building handicapped accessible, he said.
       Both the city and school district have major budget issues. Rivera's letter refers to the city's monetary situation: “Without question, the issue of most concern will the city's financial capacity to make the smallest of necessary improvements.”
       The West Center operates under a 1994 city/district agreement that encourages both community and school programs.
       The district could move the center out, but only if it offered a “comparable facility” in the same general area, the agreement states.
       Noting that both entities helped pay for the current center, the mayor's letter offers to “explore another capital improvement partnership with the district to bring Buena Vista Elementary on-line as a suitable, high-quality facility for our shared constituents.”
       Only cursory talks on the plan had occurred before the board's vote Feb. 25, but serious discussions are beginning to get under way. “I am looking forward to working with Paul [Butcher] and Parks,” Bernhard said. “We've had a good professional relationship for years.”

Westside Pioneer article