Lisa Bodwalk, owner of the Dance Center, said parents of her former students have unfairly criticized her in local newspapers and e-mail messages, and only half the story has been made public.
After Bodwalk announced in November that she would downsize her business significantly for personal reasons, former Dance Center instructor Kristen Brewer asked to continue the program at the city-owned Mason Center.
City Manager Ron LeBlanc refused the request because Bodwalk claimed it would be unfair for the city to compete with private enterprise. Brewer now operates Durango Dance! in a rented space at the Durango Sports Club but has no affiliation with the city's Parks and Recreation Department. Bodwalk and her employees have offered classes through a city contract since 1996.
Bodwalk said she opposed the contract because the city's agreement included retrofitting two classrooms at the Mason Center into dance studios, including the installation of hardwood floors, rails and mirrors. During the 13 years of her city contract, Bodwalk held classes at her own studio in the Smiley Building.
"I was in no way trying to block them from working. I let them know I was downsizing, offered them a chance to rent space to continue teaching classes and they stopped talking to me," she said.
"What I'm talking about is private enterprise, and that deal with the city was completely unjust. It's one thing to provide a facility, but to construct one and do maintenance for an independent contractor to then run 100 percent of their business through that facility - all I was saying is you're going to set somebody up in business and call it a city-run program, but that's not true."
LeBlanc said he preliminarily approved the Mason Center proposal in early December because it came during budget discussions when the City Council instructed him to find an additional $50,000 for the Mercy Community Health Clinic. He said Metz and the Parks and Recreation staff estimated that the dance program could bring up to $45,000 in revenue. But when Bodwalk raised her concerns in a Dec. 11, 2008, memorandum to City Council, he abandoned the idea.
"That's where the communication breakdown occurred. She said she was OK with the Mason Center, and I assumed she understood that meant we'd have to have a studio. Obviously, there was a misunderstanding. We have no intention of being in competition with her," LeBlanc said.
Brewer said she now has more than 170 children and 40 adults registered in her classes at the Durango Sports Club but is looking for her own space to expand her new business. She said the city's proposal to outfit the Mason Center was attractive at the time for financial reasons, but she does not hold a grudge against Bodwalk and respects both her decision to downsize and her opposition to the Mason Center proposal.
"I wish her the best. I'm just excited about the new adventure. I know things happen for a reason, and that just wasn't happening. At first I was really disappointed, but I'm over it," Brewer said.