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Referendum would benefit local organizations if passed

By Kyle Dimke, kdimke@wkbt.com
Published On: Mar 21 2014 06:13:51 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 21 2014 06:50:10 PM CDT

By leasing out the current middle school to groups like the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater La Crosse Area and the West Salem Hockey Association, the West Salem School District isn't the only group that benefits from the referendum.

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) -

West Salem residents have two referendum questions on their April 1 ballot. One is to exceed the state's revenue cap by $500,000 and the other is to borrow $32 million to build a new middle school. But the school district and students wouldn't be the only ones to benefit from a new building.

Two years ago, the school district looked into just remodeling the current middle school. But architects soon found the district would benefit from repurposing the school and building a new middle school. So the challenge became trying to find something to fill the empty space. Two local organizations have made that easy by saying the space would be perfect for them.

West Salem Superintendent Troy Gunserson said a new middle school is the right long-term decision.

"When you do those numbers out over a 20-year period those make sense. It's not cheapest at the start but it's cheapest over the long haul," Gunderson said

By leasing out the current middle school to groups like the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater La Crosse Area and the West Salem Hockey Association, the district isn't the only group that beneifits.

"Both of those groups have been seeking to create facilities in West Salem that could be in total cost nearly $6 million, maybe $3 million apiece. By doing this kind of thing they're going to be able to do this for way less than half of that," Gunderson said.

"We're looking at somewhere between $600,000 and $700,000 possible savings," John Hammes, from the West Salem Hockey Association, said.

Hammes said the hockey association has been looking for a new facility for about 16 years.

"We've looked at multiple different locations, but one thing that's (been) in common is we want to find something close to the schools because we know our program will succeed and strive if we're within walking distance of the schools," Hammes said.

Hammes said sharing the middle school with the Boys and Girls Club could really benefit both groups.

"In this facility there would be multiple times where we could help each other out. They could use our facility to entertain the kids that come and use the Boys and Girls Club and in return we hope we get more kids interested in playing the game of hockey," Hammes said.

All three groups know this won't become a reality unless the referendum passes.

"With a 100-acre campus and modern updated facilities, and then amenities like hockey and Boys and Girls Club right on your campus,  you couldn't draw it up any better, that's for sure," Gunderson said.

The Boys and Girls Club has already had an architect and contractor look at how to remodel the building for their group. They would use about half of the school, including the main floor, gym and music area.

The hockey association would use the north side of the building for their locker rooms and concession stand; they would then build an ice rink attached to the north side of the school.

The school district said there is still about 20,000 square feet of the current middle school that could be used by other organizations.

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