LKSD to use armory gym permanently, city waits

by Mark Arehart on November 1, 2012

During a special meeting on Monday, The National Guard, The City of Bethel and the Lower Kuskokwim School District met to talk about the old Armory in Bethel. When the meeting was done, LKSD and the Guard had an agreement in place to keep the gym open for students permanently. And the city is trying to get in on the deal.

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Students at both the Bethel Alternative Boarding School and Ayaprun Elitnaruvik Elementary School will have indefinite use of the armory as a gym.

“And we made it clear that the board is committed to making sure that the facility is available to our students both at BABS and at Ayaprun,” said LKSD Superintendent Gary Baldwin.

He says the national guard has agreed to lease the armory to the school district for just the operation costs, something like $70,000 if they only open the gym section of the building.

“The issue of community use is a little bit different. That’s going to require some help from the city I think,” Baldwin said.

Bethel Mayor Joe Klejka said the city is open to getting in on the deal, which would require an agreement between LKSD and the city. In that case, Kljejka says, the city would want to open the entire building and help cover the increased operating costs: upwards of $140,000 total per year.

“And then we would have to find insurance for the facility. So we have directed the city manager to find out what the pricing of that insurance would be to cover events that the city would hold there in the evenings and see if that’s something we could afford or not,” Klejka said.

Those evening events would include city league basketball and rollerderby, two activities that are on hiatus because of the armory’s closing some months ago.

“If we could keep it at a reasonable cost we really would like to make that armory available to the public,” Klejka said.

From the school district’s perspective, Baldwin said the number one priority is to keep the gym available for students. But, he said the district is willing to get on board with the city. “We will work together to find a solution.”

More discussion on the city’s stance will be made at the next regular Bethel City Council Meeting.

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