Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Support swells for community gym

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Wednesday, January 04, 2006

PALMER—Students and parents of the Academy Charter School filled the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly chambers a second time Tuesday night, imploring the Assembly to follow through on the construction of a controversial gym. Without debate, the Assembly unanimously awarded $2.36 million in state funds to F-E Contracting, Inc. The funds were approved as a grant by the state Legislature through the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. Education funds traditionally pass through the Department of Education putting the project under the purview of the school district. In this case, the project fell under the auspices of the Borough. Carolyn Sessom, one of some 350 parents in support of the gym, praised the Borough for backing the gym. "To the diligent employees of the Borough who believe just as strongly as we do that widespread participation in the public process is what has made the Borough the excellent place it is to live today and what will keep it strong in years to come." Sessom gave noteworthy recognition to "the relentless support of Mr. Duffy (Borough Manager), the ingenuity and perseverance of Keith Rountree (Public Works Director), the unflagging commitment of Bob Bechtold (Project Manager)." Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, was instrumental in getting the grant. "It was not passed in the state Legislature as the Academy Gym. It was passed as the community gym. It's a very important distinction," Gatto said, urging residents from Big Lake and other outlying areas to use the proposed gym in Palmer just as some do the new Palmer Ice Arena. "From the President, to the Governor, to the community," Gatto said, "we have children that are desperately in need of less fatty, sugary food and more exercise. "The main community gym in the Borough is the 69-year-old Borough Gymnasium, which is often booked solid from the afternoon into the evening. Home schools, private academies, church groups, individuals, and the City of Palmer reserve the Borough gym and will soon have another option. Among the features of the new gym, the design will include a stage, restrooms, kitchen, and second-floor running track. The community gym is expected to be completed in September 2006 and located next to the Academy Charter School at 801 East Arctic Ave. in Palmer. For more information, contact Borough Manager John Duffy at 745-9689.