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Funds dedicated to build community youth facility

Observer Staff

10/28/2005 12:00:00 AM

By Joe Sowmick

Public Relations Director

Discussion regarding a new Tribal school and community recreation center has circulated on the Isabella Reservation for years, but Tribal Chief Audrey Falcon and Council are committed to make these speculations a reality with funds from the Tribe's former lobbying firm.

"Ever since we received the settlement from Greenberg Traurig that brought millions of dollars back to our Tribe, we have wanted to make the projects discussed at the August community meeting a priority for our administration," stated Saginaw Chippewa Chief Audrey Falcon. "A recent survey of our Tribal youth was reviewed by Council and it showed these projects are highly needed and I will support them."

Tribal Sub-Chief Bernard Sprague has been very active with many community-based efforts that support Tribal youth and their athletic endeavors. He said the opportunity is now to make some of these goals a reality.

"Tribal Council decided recently to make these settlement funds available," he explained. "Saginaw Chippewa Parks & Recreation Director Chip Neyome is working with Economic and Community Development Director Bill Mrdeza to provide Council with a plan that includes the amenities the youth and our community need. We are actively searching for Tribal members to help in this effort and encourage those interested to contact Chip and get involved."

Youth Facilities Coordinator Kevin Chamberlain made a request to Tribal Council during August to look into the feasibility of a youth recreation center.

"I think this is an excellent opportunity for the Tribe to utilize funds that basically wouldn't have been there otherwise," explained Chamberlain. "I'm excited at the fact the Tribe has the foresight to see the importance of a youth facility. This is very important for our whole community."

Mrdeza identified the former VanOrden site located between Remus and Broadway-just north of the proposed school site-as an excellent location for the youth facility.

"The idea is to connect these [school and youth] facilities because they will compliment each other in many ways," stated Mrdeza. "Council has directed the planning department to work with Tribal administration, as well as Parks & Recreation, in bringing this project from conception, to hiring architects, to the construction management phase. We want to make sure we build a facility that is on budget and meets the communities need."

Mrdeza added the youth center project has been around as a potential option for about 15 years, but this is the first time a Tribal Council administration has brought some commitment and direction to focus this project beyond the conceptual design stage.

Education Director Mary Pelcher said she's excited Tribal Council is moving forward with both projects.

"This news is amazing and wonderful to hear," she said. "It's been a long time coming. The students and community can only benefit from the commitment of these funds to these projects. We can coordinate better programs that will work in-school and after-school with both these facilities operational and being located so close to each other."

K-12 Education Coordinator Len Klakulak agreed the proximity of these facilities is ideal.

"Communications is at the core of what we have to do in education and right now the Tribe has five different locations where programs are delivered," stated Klakulak. "It would be easier to have our staff and students under one roof instead of driving across the community to deliver services to our students.