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Residents want rural rec center

By: JANE REUTER THE GAZETTE
May 1, 2005
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Some northeastern El Paso County residents hope to create a recreation district and will try to place measures on the November ballot to accomplish that.
The Eastern El Paso County Community Recreation Center, proposed in Calhan, would serve the communities of Peyton, Calhan, Ellicott, Rush, Yoder, Ramah and Simla. The envisioned amenities include a community center with a swimming pool. About 10,000 people live in the area, said Calhan school superintendent Bob Selle, who chairs the nonprofit Calhan Community Development Incorporation, the group promoting the center. “It’s pretty much the whole northeast corner of the county,” Selle said. “Now, people have to go to Limon or Colorado Springs to swim. It’s 35 miles either way” from Calhan. Supporters propose a 5.7 mill property tax increase to pay for construction and operation of the $1.9 million center. Almost half the tax would be temporary. A 3 mill assessment to pay for construction would expire in 15 years. After that, residents would pay 2.7 mills annually for its operation. The combined 5.7 mill assessment would cost the owner of a $200,000 house about $91 a year. The Calhan school district has donated land for the center near Calhan City Park. The center has been in the planning stages for more than five years. In 1999, several Calhan area residents formed the Calhan Accountability Committee to brainstorm alternative activities for kids. A swimming pool topped the list. The proposal must pass a crucial test before it goes to the ballot. In late May or early June, Calhan Community Development volunteers will mail letters to area property owners, notifying them they can opt out of the proposed district. If a large number of people request exclusion, the plans won’t go to the ballot. “I think we could survive probably about 20 percent” opting out, Selle said. “Otherwise, we’d have to raise the mill levy so high it would be unacceptable.” Calhan Community Development volunteers tried for years to collect money through fundraisers, donations and grants. Money has trickled in, but it’s not enough to get the project under way. Kids inspired the idea for a public center, but supporters say it will serve young and old. Plans include therapy pools, a weight room, child care facilities, locker rooms and a meeting room. It’s also proposed as a training facility for school swim teams. Committee member Sonya Vandergriff, the mother of three girls, said her children motivated her to get behind the idea. She and her husband, William, love all but one thing about living in Calhan. “We don’t have a pool,” she said. “We have to go all the way to Briargate (YMCA) right now in order to swim.” Vandergriff makes the hourand-a-half round trip drive three times a week. “I want my kids to know how to swim,” she said. The Calhan Community Development group hosts its annual meeting May 9 at Calhan school, 782 Eighth St. The 6:30 p.m. meeting is preceded by a 5:30 p.m. taco dinner. CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4817 or jreuter@gazette.com
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