By Heidi Zemach for SCN
The City Council Monday approved a new three-year contract with AVTEC, Alaska’s Vocational Technical Education Center, with a 4-1 vote that costs the city $500 more per month ( from $1,000-$1,500) to rent out key portions of AVTEC’s recreation building, while also lowering the number of hours that the center is open for use.
The building, with a large gym facility, racquetball court, weight room, exercise room and locker rooms, will be open Monday through Friday from 2:00-9:00 pm, and Saturday from 10:00 a.m-6:00 p.m.
The negotiated contract actually benefits both the city and AVTEC, said Assistant City Manager Ron Long. The hours cut were not cut back as greatly as the city had earlier anticipated, he said, and AVTEC still gets the benefit of getting more city funding toward its own higher operating costs, and having janitorial service for the ground floor of the building provided by the city. The City Parks and Recreation department had to give up some of the office space it had been using, or pay more however, as the technical college needs more office space due to the student dormitory remodel project. Parks and Rec staff will still get to use the check-out window and storage area.
While nobody is pleased with the shortened hours for the public for indoor activities during the winter, Mayor David Seaward was particularly critical—especially that the building would not be open for use during the morning and early afternoons, when young children often use it.
Councilwoman Christy Terry suggested that the shorter hours would provide new opportunities for the private sector to take advantage of, or for private sector outsourcing by the city. Councilwoman Vanta Shafer added that new businesses, such as a bouncy ball place for toddlers to jump in, might do a good business here. Or perhaps Parks and Recreation could get more creative and find other spaces inside the community to hold activities, such holding the popular Tot Time in the library basement.
Mayor David Seaward suggested that the city administration may not have bargained hard enough for what they received. Long took exception to the suggestion that he had not “wheeled and dealed” enough, and told him so.
Meanwhile, the councilmembers’ point that the center’s loss would be the private sector’s gain put the mayor in a philosophical bind: he’s also been an outspoken advocate for the private sector replacing city functions when possible. Terry, Shafer, Valdatta and Marianna Keil voted in favor of the contract. Seaward voted against it. Jean Bardarson and Rissie Casagranda were both absent.