Eagle County Schools, town of Eagle and Mountain Recreation to meet in private session over noon ball dispute
Superintendent says effort to move game to Gypsum Recreation Center is about school safety, not players
All sides in a dispute about adult lunchtime basketball in a local middle school agree on one thing: Student safety is everyone’s top priority.
“The safety of the students is the primary concern. No one disputes that,” Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed said at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Eagle County Schools asked Mountain Recreation to move adult lunchtime basketball from Eagle Valley Middle School to the Gypsum Recreation Center. The school district offered the town of Eagle $13,000 to buy out the remaining 25 years of a 50-year agreement signed after Eagle contributed $431,040 toward building a double-size gym at Eagle Valley Middle School.
The three sides — Eagle, the school district and the rec district — signed an agreement in 1995.
Eagle County Schools Superintendent Phil Qualman said the district’s reasoning for moving the game is all about school safety.
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“I want to be unequivocal that it has nothing to do with the players, but everything to do with the safety of the school,” Qualman said. “When the intergovernmental agreement was drafted in 1995, the definition of school security was vastly different than it is now.”
Eagle Town Councilmember Matt Solomon on Tuesday called the move “a blatant breach of contract.”
The three sides will meet in a non-public session to try to hammer out an agreement. Contract negotiations can be conducted in private under Colorado’s open meetings law.
In Tuesday’s meeting, Councilmembers Andy Jessen, Turnipseed and Solomon each said they’d like to see lunchtime basketball stay in Eagle at the middle school instead of moving down the road to the Gypsum Recreation Center. Jessen said he played in the lunchtime game when he worked for Eagle County.
“Security is important. So are the relationships and the mentoring. I’d love to see it stay in Eagle,” Jessen said.
Background checks on the spot
In the infinite details dealt with when the school district renovated Eagle Valley Middle School and moved Eagle Valley Elementary School, separate access for adult lunchtime basketball players was apparently overlooked.
Under current security measures, players are supposed to check in at the school’s office where school district personnel scan the players’ driver’s licenses, looking for criminal records and other red flags. Players then pass through the cafeteria, about 50 feet, to gain access to the gym and locker room, school district officials said during Tuesday’s meeting.
Players are supposed to pay a fee and be monitored while they’re in the school, but Mountain Recreation abandoned that system.
“There were attempts to make people register and pay, but it was hard to manage paying for the program,” Mountain Recreation Executive Director Janet Bartnik said.
Eagle resident Derrick Weimer told the town board the Mountain Rec hired him on Feb. 9, 2019 to supervise the program. Weimer refused to be paid for it, but said he has been supervising the program for more than a year.
Generations of noon basketball
Chris Fedrizzi is one of three generations of the Fedrizzi family to play noon ball.
“It’s an Eagle asset,” he said during Tuesday’s public comment session.
Donnie Robinson is a 17-year noon ball veteran with two children attending Eagle Valley Middle School.
“It’s a small group of dedicated people. They police themselves, and in fact voluntarily give up some of their privacy by providing their drivers licenses,” Robinson said.
Eagle resident Kyle Hoiland plays noon ball and has two children attending Eagle Valley Middle School students. He said that, until this dispute, all sides have a history of working together.
Juan Baca said he was inspired beyond basketball. He attended Eagle Valley Elementary, Eagle Valley Middle and Eagle Valley High School and has played noon ball since he was in the sixth grade. Noon ball introduced him to a large group of successful people who he often asked for advice and guidance.
“They taught me how to communicate with people older than me,” Baca said.
Sandra Mutchler, the school district’s chief operations officer, said the district began to look at relocating the lunchtime game when a student wandered into the locker room when an adult was in there.
Mountain Recreation board member Thomas Pohl has a sixth-grade daughter in Eagle Valley Middle School. He voted to move the program from Eagle to Gypsum.
“We’re not proposing eliminating the noon ball program. We want to find it a new home that’s more appropriate. It only takes one bad apple and one incident and were on the front page of the paper,” Pohl said.
Mountain Recreation board member Liz Jones said their decision was unanimous, saying moving it to the Gypsum Recreation Center answers all the issues with the intergovernmental agreement.
Double gym in Mountain Rec’s plans
Adam Palmer pointed out that a double gym is part of Mountain Recreation’s expansion proposal for the Eagle ice rink and pool complex. Bartnik said the new gym could be available in 30-36 months. It would be part of the expansion’s first phase.
However, that expansion depends on whether voters in the rec district agree to raise their own taxes to pay for it, Bartnik said.