City, county eye Granite High

Community center » A fourth R, recreation, may replace the three R's at historic school.
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Granite High is dismissing classes for good, but soccer goalies, lacrosse attackers and baseball hurlers could return to the schoolyard.

South Salt Lake and Salt Lake County would like to convert the 100-year-old high school into a recreational center -- if they can pool enough lunch money.

"Any time you remove a high school from the community, you leave a void," South Salt Lake Mayor Bob Gray said Wednesday. High schools, he noted, are "gathering places."

"Our plan," Gray added, "is to try to find something that could bring the community back to that site."

County Mayor Peter Corroon said the county is interested in working with South Salt Lake to transform the soon-to-be-shuttered school grounds.

"We have a lot of demands on our [recreational] programs -- our youth programs especially -- and not enough space to fill all the needs," Corroon said. "Especially in the South Salt Lake area, there's not a lot of open space or green space or recreational space."

But, he added, "the big issue is: How do you pay for it?"

The county has virtually drained its $48 million open-space bond, Corroon noted. Plus, both the city and the county anticipate more belt tightening this year to make up for falling tax revenues in a poor economy.

"Working within a fiscally prudent budget is more important than having something nice that we can't afford," said South Salt Lake Councilman Shane Siwik. "I'm not saying I'm opposed to it. I'm saying I want to look at it really thoroughly."

By state statute, the city and the county have first and second rights, respectively, to buy the property if it is put up for sale. Gray said South Salt Lake is waiting for Granite School District to mark the school as "surplus" and put a price tag on it before the city decides. The value of the 21-acre property has not been determined.

Also in question is whether South Salt Lake would reuse the school buildings, which boast 200,000 square feet of space, including a gym and a swimming pool. The city has considered using some space for a community center. But the buildings need renovations, including seismic upgrades, that would cost $20 million to $25 million, according to the district.

"It remains to be seen how much of the campus they want to preserve," said district spokesman Ben Horsley. "As a school district, we're very interested in working with not only South Salt Lake city but also Salt Lake County in preserving the fields and the facilities for community use."

South Salt Lake Councilman Mike Rutter supports the idea of reviving the defunct schoolyard, but he would like advice from professional planners and city residents on what ought to be offered at the site.

"We don't have enough parks, enough recreational areas," he said. "We want to keep the community vibrant."