Town money critical for Red Brick purchase
Citizens and school officials in Basalt are beginning a push for a potentially important community amenity, and everyone in town should stand up and move the idea forward – particularly the town government.Following through on a promise it made during the November 2004 bond issue campaign, the Roaring Fork School District is willing to let an old building at Basalt Elementary School become a home for local nonprofit organizations. While other buildings at the aging school will be remodeled or demolished as part of a $9.2 million upgrade of the campus, the school district is exploring a broader community use for the so-called Red Brick building.There’s a precedent in the valley for this kind of community center in Aspen’s Red Brick and Yellow Brick school houses, both of which were reinvented in the 1990s as centers for a host of arts groups, charities and kid-oriented programs. Instead of being mothballed or destroyed, the Red Brick and Yellow Brick buildings are now thriving additions to the community, housing nonprofit organizations that would otherwise have struggled to pay rent in the upper valley.Basalt should make this idea work, because it may never have a similar chance again. The school district seems to be upholding its end of the potential deal. It is providing ample time for the community to raise money for the conversion, which will have to include a new roof and other pricey improvements to the building. It has also pledged to offer favorable lease terms to nonprofits and community groups that may wish to locate there.Citizens and nonprofit groups are also rallying to bring the idea to fruition, and appeared at a school board meeting this week to show their support. It’s unclear at this early stage just how much money they’ll need to raise.And that’s where the town of Basalt comes in. Thus far, town officials have signaled a reluctance to contribute cash toward the project, but this is a community effort where, simply on principle, Town Hall must play a central role.As this campaign takes shape in the coming months, we urge both citizens and public officials to rally together and turn this rare opportunity into a vital community resource.
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