A group of Southern Inyo residents hope to boost the Lone Pine economy and quality of life by building a brand new multi-purpose community center in Spainhower Park.
The Lone Pine Community Center Planning Committee appeared before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday to request support for a plan to build the 200-person capacity center, using funds donated by local philanthropist Dave Haas.
According to Matt Kingsley, a member of the Lone Pine Community Center Planning Committee, the new community center would serve as a preeminent youth center for Lone Pine youngsters, and would be managed by a local nonprofit such as Healthy Communities of Southern Inyo.
The new building will also be available for private functions and business meetings or training sessions “for a small user fee” that would be used to help with maintenance costs for the facility, Kinglsey said.
In preparation for its meeting with the Board of Supervisors, the Community Center Planning Committee compiled a list of potential user groups who have expressed interest in using the center, if it is built. That list includes organizations such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and McDonald’s, who have said it would be a good place to hold training sessions.
The Community Center Planning Committee has its eyes on a piece of property the county leases from the LADWP adjacent to Spainhower Park. The piece of property was recently fitted with a new sprinkler system and grass during a park restoration project in 2009.
“We’re asking not only for support of this project, but also an agreement or Memorandum of Understanding with the county that will allow us to do the project,” Kingsley said.
Lone Pine resident and member of the Community Center Planning Committee Jaque Hickman told the Board of Supervisors that there are ongoing efforts in Lone Pine to enhance curb appeal and bring visitors to the area.
She said the community center would be a draw for more than just residents and local groups, as it could be used for business retreats for out-of-the-area organizations.
Hickman went on to point out that Statham Hall in Lone Pine, which serves as both a community center and senior center, is “antiquated” and does not meet the needs of many groups and organizations.
“Everybody wants to take something from the county, and I want to give something to the county,” Haas told the board.
Fourth District Supervisor Marty Fortney said he appreciates the donation Haas is willing to make to the county, but expressed concerns about the county accepting ownership of the building and being responsible for its maintenance.
“I support the concept and the generous offer, but I have some concerns. The county can’t afford to maintain Statham Hall and the Big Pine Town Hall roof leaks,” Fortney said.
County Administrator Kevin Carunchio said that the building would have to be gifted to the county because the current lease agreement on the park property does not allow for a third-party building on the grounds.
Fifth District Supervisor Richard Cervantes, whose district includes Lone Pine, said, “the building will be built as maintenance-free as possible, I don’t see it being a huge undertaking.”
Both Fortney and Second District Supervisor Susan Cash said they were disappointed that Cervantes was adamant about utilizing Proposition 40 Parks and Recreation grant money – that had been set aside to purchase playground equipment for Millpond County Park – to have the sprinkler system and grass installed at Spainhower Park, where the new community center is being proposed.
First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius said she supported the project, saying it would be a great marketing tool for Inyo County and an opportunity to enhance business in Lone Pine.
“Going forward in America is going to require these kinds of relationships because government can’t do it all,” she said, “and Lone Pine always rises to the unknowns.”
Arcularius did say she had some concerns about plans to have Healthy Communities manage the new center because she fears the group will be considered “non-essential” and be disbanded in the near future.
The next step for the community center is to have the Board of Supervisors draft and approve an MOU or agreement with the Lone Pine Community Center Planning Committee that will outline details about construction and the eventual gifting of the building to the county.
That discussion will be held at a later date.