County to seek bids for Crawford Center roof

Condensation issues also causing problems inside building
Kevin Passon

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

It took some loud complaining from area residents, but county officials are apparently responding to the noise about the the mold at the county library and needed roof repairs at the Crawford Center.

The Shawano County Public Property Committee agreed Nov. 2 to seek bids for a new roof for the Crawford Center, formerly the Shawano County Expo Center, at the Shawano County Fairgrounds.

“Regarding fiduciary law, anytime somebody gives you their money and their gift, you have a legal responsibility to take care of that gift,” said Adam Gafner, the Shawano Community High School hockey coach, who also has a background in fiduciary law. “Your opinion doesn’t matter anymore — of the hockey league, of the benefits to the county. The county accepted this gift, and the legal responsibility is you need to take care of said gift, and I would argue legally, from a county standpoint, you have failed the Crawford family (and other donors) year after year after year.”

Wendy Crawford, daughter-in-law of Pat and Ruth Crawford, who donated $750,000 to help construct the building, urged the committee to view the Crawford Center as an opportunity. Today, there are 99 children in the youth league (33 from Shawano, 49 from the rest of the county and 17 from Oconto, Waupaca and Outagamie counties). The high school team has 19 players (eight from Bonduel and the rest from the Shawano area).

“We all know what happens when kids have no place to channel their energy,” she said. “It’s important for youth to have safe places to go, to build character, to have adult mentors, learn life skills and grow up to be productive citizens.”

Cecil resident and hockey mom Ann Walenski said her son started playing hockey at the center when he was 3.

“Over the years, the Crawford Center became a second home, nurturing his passion for the sport and guiding him through various stages of his hockey career,” she said. “His dedication and hard work, and the invaluable experiences that he gained at the Crawford Center, helped him to (get) a scholarship to college.

“The Crawford Center has not only been a place of learning and growth for our children, but a place where we as parents invested our time, resources and unwavering dedication.”

Walenski said her family, and countless others, invested hundreds of hours at the Crawford Center to benefit their children, the hockey program and larger community.

“This commitment is built on understanding that both the hockey families and Shawano County would contribute financially in the ongoing functions of the Crawford Center,” she said. “It is a shame to see such a valuable asset fall into disrepair given the countless lives it has positively influenced and the investments made by families like ours.

“This facility is more than a building. It’s a symbol of our community, teamwork and dedication.”

Even youth hockey league member London Anker chimed in at the board meeting.

“I am at the rink more than I am at my house,” she said. “I also like my coaches, because they always tell you to push to 100%, because they care. I feel safe with my coaches there and with all the parents there.”

Sterve Dreher, manager of the building maintenance department, said the county is supportive of the hockey league — and taxpayers are, too.

“The majority of the problem was self-inflicted,” he said, noting the many years hockey and other events were held in the building without issues.

“We have repeatedly gone in and turned on the dehumidifier that was purchased by the county at the request of the hockey league,” he said. “This was brought on by the improper use of the equipment.”

He said someone keeps turning off the dehumidifier; therefore, it’s not being used properly. The roof was patched this past summer, but he acknowledged it is time for a new one.

“Yes, the roof does need to be replaced,” he said.

Supervisor Jerry Erdmann said the condensation is causing the building to sweat. He said the problems with the Crawford Center are due to more than just a leaky roof.

Dreher said an estimate in the spring put the cost of a new roof, with a 20-year warranty, at $229,900. It was initially part of the capital improvement plan for 2024 but was removed due to its cost and the limited budget available for capital projects.

Gafner questioned whether part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds could be used, as the county still has access to a couple million dollars.

Dreher pointed out that the county financially supports the hockey league when it does not do the same for other sports.

While the Shawano Hockey League paid $48,000 a year to lease the Crawford Center in the winter months, the cost to operate the facility during that time was significantly more, the supervisor said.

Costs in 2018 were $79,383, and in 2019, the costs were $76,357. Costs were $70,362 in 2020 and $79,506 in 2021.

“In that span of four years, the county taxpayers countywide have subsidized the hockey league to the amount of $113,000 and change,” he said.

The lease this year will cost the hockey league $80,000-$85,000.

“What we’re asking for is the hockey league pay for its actual expenses while it’s in the building,” Natzke said.

Tanya Anker, Shawano Hockey League secretary, reminded the committee that the hockey league is an all-volunteer group, and to jump from $48,000 to $80,000 is going to be harsh when it comes to raising funds to pay that cost.

Gafner offered to help the county market the facility so it is used more effectively in the summer months and raise funds to help the building become self-sustaining.