• Space between club, Mickelson would be used for parking as BGCB expands
BROOKINGS – The Boys & Girls Club of Brookings should be able to expand its building, now that the Brookings School District has agreed to let it use district land for a parking lot.
The Brookings School Board gave unanimous verbal agreement Monday that BGCB would be allowed to use part of the space between the club and Mickelson Middle School for a parking lot if it adds on to its building. Club leaders told the board that they are out of room in that building.
“At 350 kids a day, we just don’t have any more room to do programming,” said Reece Kurtenbach, chair of the club’s strategic growth committee.
Vanessa Merhib, executive director of BGCB, said the club is nine years old and has been in its current facility at 1126 Southland Lane since September 2007. The 34,400-square-foot facility was built larger than needed at the time, to serve the club into the future, but Merhib said membership has greatly increased since then.
Right now, BGCB has almost 1,300 members and an average daily attendance of 350-400 kids. It serves pre-kindergarten through 12th grades, offering outcome-based programs to help kids achieve academic success and live healthy lifestyles, as well as to develop character, leadership and an appreciation for the arts.
Merhib said the majority of kids who attend come from families of low or moderate income.
BGCB needs to expand its square footage, Kurtenbach said. Its strategic planning committee has considered adding on to its current building or finding space elsewhere for portions of the club. Its tentative plan for adding on would be to create new spaces for the teen group and for the pre-K and kindergarten students.
“If we made this addition, it would consume all our existing land,” Kurtenbach added.
According to city code, the club would need about 100 parking spots to support its facility once the expansion is complete. Teens and Pre-K/K would likely have new entrances accessible from the proposed parking lot to the west of the building, and the first- through fifth-graders would likely continue to use the current entrance on Southland Lane.
That fairly large piece of land to the west, owned by Brookings School District, sits between BGCB and Mickelson; it holds basketball courts and open space for the school. District superintendent Roger DeGroot said if BGCB uses the land for parking, it will move the courts elsewhere on the property so they are still available to the school.
Mickelson Principal Melinda Jensen and the school’s transportation director and head janitor have considered the idea and talked with P.E. teachers and others. No one is objecting.
“We’re pretty good to go with this,” DeGroot said. “At first we really hesitated, but we’ve been such good partners and they’ve been partners, both ways. They’ve provided service in the summertime, they provide after-school for our students – it’s right next door. We provide bus transportation right to their front door.
“As we look at this, it might be an opportunity, because they don’t have a lot of students there in the morning, a drop-off for our students at the middle school, to alleviate this problem here, as well,” he added. “And they know that, and I think this has been designed to some degree to help that out.
“As for the administration and custodial staff and transportation, we don’t have any negatives toward this proposal.”
BCGB is using land that the City of Brookings has leased to it for 99 years. District business manager Brian Lueders said the school board has multiple options on how to sign over use of its land: A new law passed in July allows the district to simply give land to a nonprofit organization, or it could sell it or lease it.
Kurtenbach said that if the board could decide by early October, it would allow BCGB to apply for grants to help pay the cost of building expansion. But the board was ready to decide right away.
New board member and former Brookings superintendent Bob Jostad was the first to voice his support for the plan to give, sell or lease the land to BCGB.
“I would see no reason why I wouldn’t support this very enthusiastically, as an individual member (of the board),” Jostad said.
The four remaining board members – Larry Rogers, Matt Vukovich, Marysz Rames and Steve Bayer – all agreed.
“Yeah, everybody wins,” Rogers said.
Rogers, who is board president this year, noted earlier in the meeting that Boys & Girls Club of Brookings serves about twice as many students as does the Boys & Girls Club in Des Moines, Iowa, a city that counted just under 207,000 residents as of July 2011.
“I thought that was reasonably breathtaking as a measure of how active the program here was. So, I don’t doubt the need for the program,” Rogers said.
The board verbally agreed to let BCBG use the land, but will officially vote on the issue in October or November, DeGroot said. He told BCGB officials that the cost to use this land would either be free or $1.
Contact Charis Prunty at email@example.com.