County seeks applications for new Kaliseum director

Dennis Mansfield, Contributing Writer

KALKASKA – While many issues concerning the future of the Kaliseum Recreation Complex remain in limbo following the defeat of a 20-year funding proposal in early May, the Kalkaska County Board of Commissions will look to answer one question.

Commissioners could answer the question of who will be the day-to-day leader at the county-owned facility, nearly five months after the previous director, former NHL Stanley Cup championship winning defenseman Krzysztof Oliwa, resigned due to family concerns.

County officials recently posted the position and are seeking applications to fill the role. No deadline was listed in the advertisement.

Oliwa, the former owner/manager of the Kalkaska Rhinos Junior Hockey team, informed commissioners he would be stepping down as director of the county-owned facility in a March 6 email to board members, citing the need to move back to New Jersey to take care of his daughter, who is recovering from injuries sustained on Feb. 18, 2019, in a near fatal, multi-car/truck accident.

Oliwa, who earned the nickname “The Polish Hammer” during his days in the NHL, brought the Rhinos to Kalkaska in September 2014. He would later offer to purchase the Kaliseum. Instead, commissioners decided to hire him as director in 2017.

While accepting his resignation at their regular monthly meeting March 22, commissioners did not immediately start a search to find Oliwa’s replacement. Rather, they’ve decided to first wait and see whether voters would approve a 20-year, 1.5-mill ballot proposal in the May 7 special election.

The proposed 20-year levy would have helped raise over $28 million to repair and upgrade the facility, as well as fund operations over the duration of the millage.

While waiting to hear from voters in May, commissioners appointed Kijlee Goodrich, who had served as Oliwa’s administrative assistant, as interim director.

Voters, however, handed commissioners somewhat of a setback by defeating the May 7 proposal by a margin of only 1,549 “yes” votes against 2,063 “no” votes.

The defeat has not stopped county officials from trying to move forward and find ways to address the maintenance situation at the Kaliseum. And, while waiting to receive applications for the vacant director’s position, commissioners are continuing efforts to prepare for another potential ballot proposal to be put before voters this fall.

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