KALKASKA — Voters in Kalkaska County will decide whether to approve tax funding for operational expenses at the Kaliseum sporting facility in Kalkaska — again.
Voters rejected the request in August but will face the question again on the November ballot: 0.25 mills for four years from 2021 through 2024. The tax would collect $210,517.50 in the first year, if approved by voters.
Voters approved the Kaliseum operational millage in 2008, 2012 and 2016, but it is set to expire this year.
The ice rink and swimming pool facility has fallen into disrepair in recent years. Mechanical problems regarding the lack of proper separation between the air and ventilation systems between the cold and warm areas of the building led to structural damage, including a rusted pool room ceiling, consultants reported.
Many of the problems are attributable to past years of minimal maintenance funding and failure to repair or replace equipment, consultants previously reported.
John Starr, Kaliseum director, said the current operating millage renewal request is key for the facility’s future. The millage defeat in August was disappointing, he said.
“I haven’t been told ‘it’s do or die,’ but it is critical,” he said.
Starr said he hopes to partner the Kaliseum with local schools and medical organizations to expand programming and revenue sources at the facility, including possibly re-opening a pool in the future.
The pool area has remained closed for two years after a rusty nut and bolt fell from the ceiling, as previously reported by the Record-Eagle.
“Right now we are focusing on operational as a bridge to get to that next step,” Starr said.
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, but little was spent on maintenance.
Now the building is paid for, said Craig Crambell, county commissioiner and chairman of the Kaliseum steering committee.
“It’s a $10.5 million building that we own and it would cost $1.3 million to tear it down,” he said.
Terri Sibole, Kalkaska County treasurer’s clerk, confirmed the building’s bond debt retirement tax was scrubbed from tax bills after the debt was paid off in 2019. The rate last paid by taxpayers for that in 2018 was 0.73 mills.
Crambell said he hopes voters agree to keep the facility running with the operational millage so officials can continue working on a new business plan.
“I’ve got confidence it’s going to work. One way or another we’re going to make it work,” he said.
The Kaliseum has recently made frequent appearances before Kalkaska County voters, even beyond this recent summer election.
Last year, voters rejected a $29 million dollar plan to overhaul the Kaliseum recreational facility and better maintain the building for the next two decades.