WJ council looks over community center ideas


(Posted Nov. 20, 2015)

By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer

West Jefferson village council continues to explore the possibility of building a community center.

Janet Jordan, a recreation planner with Moody Nolan, presented three proposals for such a center at the Nov. 16 council meeting. The price points were $9 million, $7 million and $4 million.

The high-end option would include a gym of regulation high school size (84×50 feet), added space for volleyball, a fitness area, multipurpose rooms, exercise rooms, office space and furniture. The building size would come in at 26,000 square feet.

The mid-size option measure 21,000 square-foot and would not include the volleyball area.

The low-end version would be more of a rental facility where users would pay to use the space. It would include the gym with seating space and a meeting room for seniors.

All three proposals call for a gym ceiling height of 26 feet, the minimum height for volleyball, Jordan said. Each features a walking/running track on the second floor.

Council did not take action on the proposals, but did discuss them and how to go about financing the project should they choose to move forward.

“What version do you want to go with,” asked councilman Randy Otis, putting his support behind a workout area. “Without it, people are going to go to Hilliard or Prairie Township.”

Council president Ron Garver wasn’t keen on the low-end version because it does not include a fitness area.

“You have to have something to draw the people in,” he said.

Councilman Jim King asked whether or not the village needs a community center, pointing out that other communities 10 to 15 miles away have centers people can patronize.

“Let’s put it on the ballot and let the people decide,” Garver said.

Council has discussed the possibility of asking voters for an income tax increase to fund the center’s construction and operation.

An increase of 0.25 percent would raise $750,000 a year, but it’s too late to get such a request on the 2015 primary ballot.

Because 2016 is a presidential election year, Ohio’s primary date is in March instead of May. The deadline to submit issues to the Madison County Board of Elections for the March ballot is Dec. 16.

“We don’t have time,” Garver said. “We want to be ready and want to have all or numbers together.”

He said the income tax appears to be more favorable than a property tax.

“If we went for millage, we’d have to have five or seven mills, and I don’t think the people will go for this,” he said.

Ray Martin, who gives up his council seat to become mayor in January, agreed, adding that residents wouldn’t go for increased taxes and membership fees.

The deadline to place an issue on the 2016 November ballot is in August.

A committee of community leaders and residents has been meeting with village officials for several months regarding the community center idea. Garver said more people became involved after a feasibility study was presented. He said he plans to remain on the committee after he leaves council at the end of this year. He did not seek re-election.

Garver also announced that the village has officially purchased land where a center could be located.

“It is now ours,” he said, reporting that the village recently closed on the purchase of 24 acres between the railroad tracks and the Merriman subdivision. The purchase price was $161,400.

Other business

• Garver, chair of council’s finance committee, has been working with Mayor Darlene Steele and finance director Debbie DiLeo on the village’s 2016 budget to be introduced at the Dec. 7 council meeting.

“It’s a $9.257 million package,” Garver said. “That’s down from this year’s budget.”

All village employees will benefit, getting a 3 percent pay raise.

Garver praised Steele for presenting a nearly balanced budget. He said it is balanced to within $3,000 in the general fund and within a little over $200,000 in the overall budget.

• Martin thanked Steele for the early guidance she has given him as he prepares to take over her duties come January.

“I wish I’d had that kind of transition,” she said.

Council will need to appoint someone to fill Martin’s unexpired term on council.

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