Johnstown Independent

Village-owned property

Post 254 might take offer to use rec center on Maple Street

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Richardson/American Legion Post 254
American Legion Post 254 held its Memorial Day pancake breakfast fundraiser inside its small headquarters at 44 S. Main St.

American Legion Post 254 might find a home on some land owned by the village of Johnstown following a discussion Sept. 17 between Post 254 and village officials.

Post 254 is interested in using the village’s recreation center on Maple Street, northwest of the downtown square, as its headquarters if a deal could be reached to also get some village-owned land adjacent to the rec center.

Both the village and Post 254 have appointed thee-member committees to work together on a plan.

Last month, Post 254 officials had requested an acre of vacant land just north of the village municipal offices at 599 S. Main St. to build a new headquarters. However, the Village Council decided it might have other plans for that land in the future and rejected the request.

“The American Legion Post 254 appreciates council’s offer of the rec building. It’s in good condition,” Post Commander Gordon Cromwell said during the Sept. 17 council meeting. “Our hold-up is, the building would limit us as far as what we want to do in the future. We’re not trying to be greedy but would like for you to consider leasing some of the land there to allow us to do what we want to do.”

As they proposed in August for the other village-owned property, Post 254 is hoping to get a 99-year lease for the rec center and some of the nearby land at $1 or $2 a year. A tennis court that is in disrepair, along with an aged volleyball and basketball court, are on part of that land.

Having some of the adjacent land would allow Post 254 to build a playground, a pavilion and a walkway with memorial bricks and to expand the rec center if needed. A baseball field for American Legion games also could be built if enough land is acquired.

Fundraisers and donations would be used to pay for everything, although such efforts are at a standstill until Post 254 has a place to call its new home.

Plans call for initially selling more than 1,000 memorial bricks, with inscriptions at $75 a brick. The bricks would honor veterans dating back to the Civil War.

An expanded rec center would let Post 254 hold all its functions there, as well as be open for community and other events, Cromwell said.

Post 254 for decades has been in a downtown two-story brick building at 44 S. Main St. That building has become too cramped, forcing the veterans group to hold its larger functions at other locations in the village.

Council members seemed interested in the latest proposal, providing all of the necessary details could be worked out. That could take a few months.

“I think there’s a lot of details we need to work on,” Mayor Sean Staneart said. “Sometimes these things take some time. I don’t want expectations we can get this done in a couple of months.”

Cromwell said Post 254 knows this will take time. However, his group has tentatively set Memorial Day in 2015 to dedicate the brick memorial walkway.

Post 254 currently has about 180 members, but many of them are getting older. Post officials hope that by getting a new headquarters that would offer a variety of events, younger veterans might become more interested and help expand the post.