For months the Lower Kuskokwim School District has been in negotiations with the National Guard for use of the Armory Gym in Bethel. It was thought that the City of Bethel would join in those negotiations in some form, but that may no longer be the case.
Negotiations were started between LKSD and the City of Bethel to expand on the school district’s current lease with the Alaska Army National Guard, allowing both entities to use the gym in tandem. This would have allowed for community groups like adult basketball and roller derby to use the gym at night, while the school district used it during the day.
But, those negotiations for a memorandum of understanding have stalled.
“We had a working group that did put together an MOU, however we were notified by LKSD that they have decided that they have identified more uses for the gymnasium for school folks. So therefore they are not going to execute the MOU that we put into effect,” said Bethel City Manager Lee Foley.
The MOU gave both parties a share of gym use. But, Foley said the school district wanted to include more time for student gym use in the evenings, something that he says would change the terms of the contract.
“They don’t intend to execute the MOU that we spent time putting togehter jointly. So I don’t see where we come into the leasing agreement at this stage,” Foley said.
LKSD Superintendent Gary Baldwin said the school board felt it should explore a different route than what was outlined in the MOU.
“It would have made it difficult to use the MOU because it was probably based more on an equal use of time between the schools and the city,” Baldwin said.
He said a new deal could be struck with the city, but it is not a certainty.
“We felt like maybe the best option then would be to then try and get a lease with the National Guard and then see what the terms of that lease would to include city use.”
Baldwin said he expects to hear back from the National Guard sometime soon.
Foley says he is unsure if the city and LKSD will be able to reach an agreement once that deal is struck.