Incline community angered over loss of recreation center expansion project
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The general improvement district Board of Trustees were met with many angry community members on Wednesday after it was announced that the David and Cheryl Duffield Foundation will no longer be funding the expansion of the recreation center.
The decision came after a special IVGID meeting called on Wednesday, Sept. 14, to possibly approve an amendment to the grant agreement with the Duffield Foundation resulted in a 4-1 vote with Trustee Sara Schmitz voting against the design amendments.
The project in total would have cost $25,643,293, and the Duffields were planning to provide $26 million.
Although all trustees sent a letter of support for the project following the approval of the amendment, the Duffields decided that they would no longer be funding the project since support for the design was not unanimous on Monday, Sept. 26.
The public was able to comment at the IVGID meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 28, which saw over 40 people, many with children, come to comment on the cancellation of the project following the pull of the funding. Not everybody could fit in the meeting room inside the IVGID administrative building so many stood outside.
A local sixth grader, J.P. Kelly, reflected the opinion of many at the meeting, wondering what will happen now for the youth of Incline Village without a center dedicated for them.
“I feel like we just need somewhere for us to hangout,” said Kelly.
The recreation center was set to expand to include a gymnasium, youth center and other structures that allow for recreation. After going back to the drawing board to trim off what was originally a $33 million plan, and holding the special meeting, it was decided to remove seven structural bays, which included the multipurpose gymnasium space. The plans were submitted to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency on Sept. 15 and were approved.
Many of the board members expressed their disappointment in the loss of the project for the community.
“The rec center expansion was to truly create a community center serving everyone; youth, teens, seniors,” said Trustee Kendra Wong. “I understand, and I am disappointed that we were in a position where we would have to reduce the scope of the project and that was not ideal. However, losing the entire project all together is even worse, and it’s a huge disappointment and a shortsighted decision.
“The Duffield Foundation had one request for the award, and that was unanimous support for the project, and we all knew that going into both the design and the letter of support,” Wong added. “Trustee Schmitz was the one trustee who voted no against the project, and she’s shown me that she’s not working for the good of the community. Sara, I’m calling for your immediate resignation.”
Wong’s statement was cut short after it was pointed out that her statements went against open meeting law, given trustees cannot discuss individual character unless there is a specialized meeting.
It was noted multiple times that all board members were aware that without unanimous support for the design there would be no funding provided for the project, which was a cause of contention among members.
Schmitz, who received many calls to resign during public comment and also some support, claimed that she was unaware the decision needed to be unanimous and expressed her own disappointment in the loss of the project.
“I did not vote against the project,” said Schmitz. “I’m very disappointed that because of me expressing a desire to actually deliver for the community, the [multi-use] of the project that we have been discussing since January had been quickly and expeditiously removed from the scope of the project. I really wanted that to happen for our community and I am disappointed that the Duffields and the board didn’t have an opportunity to negotiate, to truly be partners for one another.”
Chair Tim Callicrate said that he spoke with a foundation spokesperson who explained the decision from the Duffields.
“While there were several missteps in the project, the foundation was on board to proceed forward with Option D, provided the board unanimously supported the amended scope of the project with the intent of showing the foundation the community of its full support,” said Duffield representative Jim Dugdale in a statement given to Callicrate. “Unfortunately, by a 4 to 1 vote, that didn’t happen.”
General Manager Indra Winquest was crushed by the news and commented on the issue during his update.
“I want to thank Jim Dugdale and the foundation and I also want to say to the community and to our board that district staff, including myself, did everything that we possibly could to keep this project moving,” Winquest said.
The project now is effectively dead.
“[Dugdale] was absolutely definitive that the Duffields are not going to move forward with the project, and it’s very unfortunate,” said Callicrate. “But so be it. It’s their money, their decision. They had their … one stipulation of unanimous on both, and it didn’t happen. So we as a community have to deal with the fall out of that.”
The last item on the agenda was in regards to the IVGID Gold and Silver Card holders, which is a recruitment and retention privilege provided by the district to full-time year-round employees who have been consistently employed for 10 and 20 years.
After it was brought to the attention of Winquest on the Ordinance 7 Committee that the privileges should be reviewed, it was brought to the board.
Wong, who expressed multiple times she was against revoking benefits to employees, pointed out that there may be some legal issues, which prompted the items to be moved to a legal meeting prior to being voted on by the board.
Both trustees Wong and Michaela Tonking expressed they would vote against revoking privileges for employees when the item is brought back to the board.
Winquest reported that there are currently 131 Gold and Silver cards issued to employees, 29 of which are currently still working with the district. Over the last 5 years, Gold and Silver card holders have made up 1,164 beach visits out of 200,000 total beach visits.
The item will be brought to legal before coming back before the board.
To watch the full meeting, visit livestream.com/accounts/3411104.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.