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Commissioners back community gym

March 09, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

A proposal to build a community gym on the Hancock Middle/High School campus gained momentum Tuesday as the Washington County Commissioners voiced support for the project.

"I'd like to see this happen this year," said Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger. "What can we do to make this happen?"

The commissioners discussed funding the gym's construction with members of the Washington County Board of Education, which would own and maintain the building.

Last week, the county Recreation and Parks Board voted to recommend that the commissioners dedicate Program Open Space funds to the 840,000-square-foot gym, which is expected to cost $350,000.

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The state funds could contribute as much as $200,000 over two years. The town of Hancock has raised $45,000 in donations, according to Mayor Daniel Murphy.

The County Commissioners are considering a deal to split the remaining cost with the School Board. Schools Superintendent Herman Bartlett promised to contribute at least $35,000, a 10-percent match required by the state.

Commissioners President Greg I. Snook asked the commissioners to delay any decision until they hear the Recreation and Parks Board's formal proposal on March 23.

The project is exciting but there are other requests for Program Open Space funds that must be considered, he said. Restrooms, water and sewer service at Snook Park in Halfway and a parking lot at PenMar Park are among the projects competing for that money.

Murphy said the gym's construction would correct an inequity in the school system. In Hancock, several high school sports teams share one gym and many students practice into the night.

"We don't have middle school (sports) activities because we don't have the space," he said. "We don't have room to put all the programs together like everybody else."

The building would have a separate entrance for public access to serve the community as well as students after school hours.

The gym is not included in the School Board's five-year capital improvements program. Director of Facilities Management Dennis McGee said the gym is needed but might not qualify for state school construction funding because of Hancock's low growth rate.

Former Hancock High Principal Boyd Michael III said the gym would provide a much-needed outlet for youths. Hancock has no theater or bowling alley and most kids don't have cars and gas money, he said.

Murphy, who is chairman of the school's citizens advisory committee, urged the commissioners to support the gym. "Our school is our center of pride in our community," he said.

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