Gamewell to give $15,000 for high school weight room

Aug. 12, 2014 @ 06:39 AM

Gamewell council members went back and forth Monday night on the issue of whether to give $25,000 to West Caldwell High School for new weight room equipment and renovating the room, then voted 4-1 vote for a $15,000 gift with the hope that West Caldwell’s booster club can match the funds.

Councilman Mike Kent was vocal in his support for full $25,000 that school officials asked for last month.

“What I saw was there is a need,” Kent said. “It’s a good cause. . . .It’s showing the student athletes that we care.”

But no one else backed his request to vote for that. Kent persisted in bringing it up, but each time was met with no support for a vote.

Councilman Wilford Beane, a former teacher and coach, suggested a compromise.

“All of us sympathize with the need,” Beane said. “The problem is funding and where these funds come from.”

Beane said it would not be fair for the town council to give so much money to the high school and then might not be able to give funds to Gamewell Elementary School or Gamewell Middle School if they needed money for something just as important.

Every year, the Gamewell town council gives $2,000 to each of the schools in town. West Caldwell High School uses those funds to help needy families with things from electricity bills to school supplies, principal Andy Puhl said. Beane suggested giving West Caldwell $25,000 if the school agreed not to seek the $2,000 annual donation for the next 10 years. Puhl and West Caldwell Booster Club President Bruce Roberts refused, saying that on moral grounds they could not take away the $2,000 from the families that needed it in their school.

Councilwoman Barbara Pennell said that she had been approached by residents concerned about the amount of money being requested, so she suggested providing a lower amount and asking the high school and the booster club to seek donations to match it. Pennell, Beane, Kent and Dan Kincaid approved giving $15,000. Johnny LeFever voted against it, saying West Caldwell should have asked the City of Lenoir for money first.

“I’m not against helping out, but I’m saying Gamewell shouldn’t foot the whole bill,” LeFever said.