WDAY.com

WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published March 07, 2011, 09:16 PM

Citizens Pack Walhalla City Council Meeting on Civic Center Lease Issue

Over 100 pack city hall
The city of Walhalla and North Border schools are fighting over the lease involving the city-owned civic center. The city leases the civic center to the school, which has used it as a gym for the last 40 years.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

The city of Walhalla and North Border schools are fighting over the lease involving the city-owned civic center.

The city leases the civic center to the school, which has used it as a gym for the last 40 years.

Walhalla wants to raise the yearly rent by more the 30 percent. The school district says that's too much.

Since it was built in the late 60's the Walhalla Community or Civic Center has been used as the gym at Walhalla school.

"The Tuesday, Thursday, Friday night sporting events. It's used for phy-ed every day. It's used for graduation, for prom," North Border teacher Danny Moore said.

After four years without a contract, the city of Walhalla wants to renew its lease with the North Border school district. That comes with a big bump in rent: from $20,000 a year to $30,000.

"We're really scrambling to see where we are going to be getting our revenue from. Do we have to do a mill levy to so that we don't deficit spend," school board president Mike Gapp said.

Mike Gapp says it would make more sense to buy the building than to pay that kind of rent. But he says the district can't afford the city's asking price of $600,000.

"If we put a mill levy on to buy the gym, it means that all the farmers will be paying extra money and putting it into the city of Walhalla, into this school district," Gapp said.

Parent and teacher Danny Moore says there are many in the community who think the city is trying to take advantage of the school.

"We are paying taxes that go toward paying this lease. So therefore we pay the lease over and over again and now they're asking on top of that to throw in $600 grand. That's a lot," Moore said.

City officials say the $30,000 dollar number is negotiable, and they've been waiting for a counter offer from the district.

One employee says she's not sure why such a rift between the school and city has gotten so wide.

"Sometimes when there is a hidden agenda, whether it be against the city or the school board, sometimes things just get a little bit out of hand and leadership really need to take hold of this and come to conclusion," Walhall Economic Development Director Kathy Stremick said.

The city has given the district until July to sign a new lease. If that doesn't happen, some fear the school could end up using the old, much smaller gym which is now the cafeteria. Stremick doesn't think it will go that far.

"The city of Walhalla would never board up the building and not allow the school to use the it. It would not be in the best interest of anybody especially the students of our community," Stremick said.

Whatever the outcome, it might be hard to avoid some hard feelings that have come over plays that have been made in the use of the gym.

"They have flat out said it's a source of income for them. To be asking that kind of money from a school district in small town North Dakota is just kind of crazy we all feel," Moore said.

More then 100 community members attended a Walhalla city council meeting Monday night where the council planned to discuss the civic center matter. The council made the decision to meet face to face with the school board in the near future on the use of the facility.

Tags: