Kaliseum millage revival delayed

The Kaliseum Recreation Complex on Tuesday.

KALKASKA — Kalkaska County commissioners opted against the re-launch of a millage proposal to pay for repairs and upgrades to the Kaliseum pool and ice rink facility in Kalkaska — at least for now.

Commissioners met Monday to discuss and consider the project for the August ballot, a mere six days after voters rejected a multimillion-dollar plan to overhaul the Kaliseum and better maintain the building for the next two decades. The vote was 1,549 in support of the Kaliseum millage, with 2,063 voting against the measure.

Instead, commissioners chose to spend more time fine-tuning the proposal. The new goal is to aim for the November election.

“My opinion is it will feel rushed if we try to run through the exact same millage request,” said Kohn Fisher, board chairman.

“We rushed to begin with,” said Commissioner Craig Crambell, who added it may better serve taxpayers to spend more time explaining the situation through a public education campaign.

Several dozen people attended the special board meeting in the Kaliseum’s upstairs conference room, including some who spoke in favor of renewed efforts to overhaul the facility and those who said officials should drop the effort altogether.

“I’m subsidizing something somebody else wants and I don’t like it,” said John Boucher, of Clearwater Township.

Others, however, said the community should reinvest in the recreational facility rather than allow the $10 million building to continue to crumble. Officials have said one more boiler failure and the facility won’t have heat during winter, while one more chiller failure will bring an end to the ability to maintain the ice rink.

“We owe it to the next generation” to fix the Kaliseum, said Ann Kirtley, of Kalkaska Township, who argued the community is increasingly becoming a bedroom community to Traverse City. She said having a recreational facility will help Kalkaska win out on population growth over other small-town options in the region.

Commissioners talked about whether to establish the board’s Kaliseum advisory committee as an authority board instead. Ultimately, any changes to the plan must be determined by the August filing deadline if they wish to ask the voters again in November, Fisher said.

County resident Jack Tanner said commissioners should let that committee or authority board do the work to re-tool the Kaliseum improvement plan.

Voters initially approved the construction of the Kaliseum in 1996, but did not support an operational millage. Officials used the county’s general fund budget to help the facility pay its bills every year since it opened.

Building consultants reported a host of mechanical, structural and engineering failures at the Kaliseum, and the pool area has remained closed since September when a rusty nut and bolt fell from the ceiling. Many of the problems are attributable to years of lackluster maintenance and failure to repair or replace equipment.