School district approves $105K settlement with Eagle over lunchtime basketball
EAGLE — After extensive negotiations, the Eagle County School District has agreed to pay $105,500 to the town of Eagle to end a longstanding intergovernmental agreement that allowed adult lunchtime basketball in the Eagle Valley Middle School gym.
The 50-year “noonball” agreement started back in 1995, when the town contributed $431,000, including waiving its sewer and water hookup fees, to help the school district build a larger gym than it had initially planned.
In exchange, the school district agreed to let the noon basketball players use the gym and its locker rooms and showers, among other community uses.
The agreement came under scrutiny last spring, with the school district reportedly offering to pay the town $13,000 to end the agreement, citing safety concerns about people going in and out of the school building during school hours.
“We’re happy to resolve the IGA with the town of Eagle that ends adult noon pick-up basketball during the school day at one of our middle schools,” Superintendent Philip Qualman said of the settlement, which the school district’s board unanimously approved Wednesday.
“This was never about specific safety concerns related to any current players, but about the potential for the school’s security to be exploited by the existence of the program. We all agreed that this was a fine practice for a small town years ago, but modern changes in school security practices make such access no longer feasible. We are grateful we could resolve the concern and maintain a productive and cooperative relationship with the town of Eagle,” Qualman said.
The settlement provides the town of Eagle with $93,000 for its waived sewer and water fees, $10,000 to sever the agreement, and $2,500 for its legal fees associated with the negotiations.
Town officials must approve the settlement as well, Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed said on Thursday. It’s expected to be an agenda item up for consideration at the March 23 meeting of the Eagle Town Council.
“Obviously we’re disappointed we won’t have noon-ball for a while in Eagle, but given the circumstances, after a lot of discussion, I think this cash settlement is as good as we were going to do with the school district,” Turnipseed said.
The situation has left Eagle’s noon basketball group — which has existed for decades, even before the intergovernmental agreement — without a home court.
Mountain Recreation offered up its Gypsum Recreation Center for the group as a temporary measure, but the additional driving time, along with the ongoing pandemic and its requirements for social distancing, masks and reduced gathering sizes, have posed challenges yet to be overcome.
“We haven’t been able to play for the last year,” said Kyle Hoiland, an Eagle resident who has played basketball with the group for two decades. He estimates that hundreds of people young and old, including some students, have played in the lunch-hour pickup games over the years.
“It’s almost a heritage and tradition thing to keep playing in Eagle,” Hoiland said. “Longtime locals would play there. We had guys in their 60s and 70s playing there. Through the years there was always a core group of 10-15 guys playing, some weeks we’d get up to 25-35 guys there, all age groups, male and female, a lot of Hispanics were playing with us. A pretty wide swath of our community was covered.”
One idea, Turnipseed said, is for the town to set aside the $103,000 to help Mountain Recreation build new basketball courts in Eagle.
The recreation district is proposing improvements to the ice rink and pool in Eagle, including a gymnasium with basketball courts, in the first phase in a package of rec facility improvements for Eagle, Edwards and Gypsum.
Polling to gauge public support for taxes to pay for those recreation improvements is expected to start this April. Depending on what the polling finds, a ballot initiative to help pay for improvements could follow in November.
“We quite purposefully put on the Eagle improvement plan a double gymnasium. We’d rather have the noon basketball back here” in the town of Eagle, said Janet Bartnik, the executive director of Mountain Recreation.
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at email@example.com.