Plans to renovate Greenwood’s community center have been approved, but some city officials are undecided on whether the project is the best to way to spend more than $2 million.
This week, the city council approved 6-2 refinancing a loan used to purchase land for Freedom Park, and spending that money on the upgrades to the community center. That approval was the last one needed before starting the work, Parks Director Rob Taggart said.
But the decision wasn’t a slam dunk.
City council members raised concerns about renovating the community center using the new money the city was receiving from refinancing the bond, asking if upgrades would actually bring in more memberships, or if the center should be expanded to have the most impact.
In the past four weeks, similar concerns also were raised by both the park board and the redevelopment commission. Park board members approved spending $500,000 in park impact fees, which are collected from developers and used for park projects, but also had doubts that putting the money into the community center would help increase membership and draw more residents to the facility.
The redevelopment commission approved spending leftover money from the loan used to build Freedom Springs, but raised concerns about whether that money should be used for the community center renovations when it could be used to upgrade Freedom Springs, the facility the money was meant to be used for.
With the approvals, the parks department now can begin focusing on finalizing design plans. But they will still need another approval for construction from the board of works.
Officials hope to begin work in spring 2016, and finish upgrading the exercise area and equipment, adding a new indoor play area for children and upgrading the heating and cooling system complete by the end of the year. The renovations will be the first upgrade the 23-year-old facility has ever received.
“If we don’t do something to this community center, we are going to be having a different discussion down the road. That discussion is going to be about what we need to do to keep the lights on in this place,” Taggart said.
Initially, the parks department planned on spending $1.1 million to renovate the facility, but, once designed, all of the work the city wanted done totaled $2.3 million. In order to pay for the project, the city is using $1.1 million from borrowing more money when refinancing the loan used to buy the property for Freedom Park, $500,0000 in park impact fees, and roughly $700,000 out of $2 million left from the loan to build the city’s new aquatic center.
City council member Thom Hord, who also serves on the redevelopment commission, is concerned about using money leftover from Freedom Springs. Hord is worried that using the money on this project will not leave enough money for future work needed on Freedom Springs.
Using money from the refinanced bond for Freedom Park was also a concern for council members. Council member Brent Corey said spending money on the community center made him uncomfortable.
Hord and council member Ron Bates voted against the refinancing and spending the money. Corey, Tim McLaughlin, Bruce Armstrong, David Hopper, Ezra Hill and Mike Campbell voted in favor of the measure.
Hord would rather see money put toward building onto the community center.
“Something needs to be done at the community center, but I don’t think this is the right way to do it,” Hord said. “I would be in favor to increase the facility. Larger facilities just offer more.”
But building on to the facility was never part of the renovation plans, Taggart said.
The idea is not to compete with bigger facilities such as L.A. Fitness and Planet Fitness, but to make the community center relevant, drawing more residents and families, Taggart said. Since 2007, the community center has lost an average of 100 members per year, Taggart said.
“What we need to do is financially the best thing to do with that current bond money. I’m glad that the bonds finally got approved,” Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said. “I understand the different wishes being voiced, but at the end of the day, if we are going to continue to revitalize downtown, the community center is a vital part of that. It needs to be rehabilitated.”