The Weyauwega-Fremont Booster Club will continue raising funds for a new community fitness center and will bring another plan before the school board next month.
That is after the board voted 4-2 on Monday, June 24 to withdraw the motion it made last November to contribute $400,000 toward the project if the booster club raised $400,000 by June 1.
Debi Bartel, Doug Ehrenberg, Dan Kohl and Neal Loehrke voted in favor of the motion, while Sandy Smith and Jim Stuebs voted against it. Tony Beyer was absent.
“As booster club president, I feel the board is definitely not trying to end the project. I think they’re in favor of doing the project. They just want to follow protocol,” Tim Cullen told the County Post.
In May, the booster club requested another six months to raise $400,000 for a community fitness center.
It was Loehrke who made the motion to withdraw the board’s November motion.
“In my opinion, you didn’t do it,” he said of their goal to raise $400,000 by June 1. “So, I made a motion to withdraw our support. If that passes, you start over.”
Cullen said the booster club will meet and decide what plan to bring forward to the board’s July 8 Committee of the Whole meeting.
As of Monday evening, the club has raised $267,422, with about $29,000 of that amount raised in the last two weeks.
At one point in the meeting, Loehrke asked why the club continued to raise funds past its June 1 deadline.
Ben Claassen, a member of the booster club, said the June 1 deadline was noted on all their fundraising material.
“We were dealing with larger businesses,” he said. “You can’t make them work faster.”
Among the most recent donations is a $25,000 one from Canadian National Railroad,
Claassen said the club has received 69 donations – 21 from businesses, eight from groups and 40 from individuals or families.
The donations from groups includes almost $8,000 from the Class of 1963 and $500 from the Class of 2013.
He presented that information after district resident Reuben Larsen asked how many people live in the district and how many people have donated toward the project.
Kohl said there are more than 3,000 voting members in the school district.
When the club presented its proposal last fall, the estimate for the approximately 6,000-square-foot building was $800,000.
The architect the club is working with has now obtained a building cost of $700,000.
Cullen said the figure includes construction costs but not a contigency for any over-runs.
The club does not plan to change its fundraising program.
“Currently, we’ve been soliciting donations. In our plan, we wanted to move forward with that, which generated a lot of money,” he said.
The second phase of their fundraising will include events to involve the community, such as a run/walk on the same day as Horse & Buggy Days, a golf outing and the Hall of Fame.
Cullen told the County Post, “There is a feeling of disappointment when everything doesn’t fall in place.”
Like any project, hurdles must be overcome, he said.
“I have no doubt it will be built and be appreciated by everyone in the community,” Cullen said.
Plans call for the addition to be built off the existing locker room, on the east end of the high school.
The addition would include a weight and fitness area, aerobics rooms and locker rooms.
The current weight room measures about 15 x 30.
Cullen believes most members of the school board are in favor of the project and appreciate the momentum the club has.
During Monday’s meeting, he told the board whether it is something for science or fitness, it is important for groups to raise money for improvements, whether it is for a school facility or for the people involved in the school.
“The reason we set a date is we didn’t want it to go on forever. I don’t think we’re embarrassed. We raisedmore than $200,000 for the project. It represents a lot of people behind improving the school, I think,” Cullen said.
Bartel said, “I think it’s clear we need to do something.”
She likes the idea but said there needs to be “real numbers.”
Cullen said the board and booster club did not want to spend any money on that process until the booster club met its goal.
Also brought up during Monday’s discussion was the gym in the district’s Main Street building and whether that had been considered as a site for a community fitness center.
St. Peter Lutheran School in Weyauwega has used the gym and is in the process of building a new school, which includes a gym.
“I thought of it myself,” Claassen said.
He said the district has a lot of gym space but added it cannot always be accessed.
In Weyauwega, the elementary, middle and high schools each have their own gym.
A tour of the facilities was part of Monday’s meeting, at Loehrke’s request.
In addition to looking at the three gyms, those in attendance also saw the weight room in the high school and the fitness room for district staff and their spouses.
“Don’t oversimplify what we’re proposing,” Claassen said. “It’s not another gym.”
He said a community fitness center would benefit a lot more than the district’s student athletes.
After the board voted to withdraw its motion from last November, Claassen asked, “Tell us what we’re supposed to do, and what kind of timeframe are you on now?”
Loehrke responded, “To be blunt, there should have been a plan.”
He told the club to come to the board’s next committee meeting and be on the agenda.
The board’s next meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 8, in the middle school library.
“I don’t think anyone here is opposed to it,” Kohl said.
Smith said, “You’re wrong there, Dan,” but did not say who she was referring to.
In the discussions she has with district residents, people tell her they are surprised some are against the idea of a community fitness center.
Loehrke said the district has experienced a declining enrollment the last several years and there are empty rooms.
He questioned if the current weight room is the “worst” in the conference, referring to a comment Claassen made during the board’s June 10 meeting.
When asked which facilities he has seen, Loehrke said he has seen Waupaca’s and Manawa’s.
Waupaca is not in the same conference W-F is; Manawa is.
As discussion ended on the subject, Bartel said she had hoped to see more people at the meeting.
Among those who attended Monday’s meeting were three members of the booster club, a handful of teachers and a family of three.
Claassen said they were told to have one spokesperson at the meeting.
Larsen said he does not want to be forced into having his tax dollars go into the project.
Cullen understands the concerns of taxpayers and said when someone donates toward it, that person starts thinking about also donating to other school projects.
“It’s a movement, getting people behind something,” he said.