Study results show Orange Township wants rec center
A feasibility study prepared this year by an Indiana consulting firm concludes Orange Township could build an 89,000-square-foot, two-level community recreation center for between $26 million and $29 million.
Township trustees and officials and about two dozen residents listened to a report on the study by Pros Consulting LLC of Indianapolis during a public meeting Monday, Aug. 27.
The focal point of the $55,000 study was a scientific survey mailed to 1,500 township households. A total of 559 responses were received.
Based on results of that survey, as well as meetings with focus groups and others, township residents indicated they want a community center that includes an indoor pool, large gym, an indoor walking track, racquetball courts, weight and fitness room and community rooms.
Pros Consulting President Leon Younger pointed out survey results show a high percentage of respondents would vote in favor of a tax increase to pay for such a facility.
Sixty-five percent of respondents said they would either vote in favor of a tax increase or might vote in favor. Another 24 percent said they would vote against a tax increase.
Former township trustee Mark Robertson, a member of a steering committee of the township community parks board that worked with Pros Consulting over the past several months, said a bond issue would not be too costly to homeowners.
He estimated a 30-year bond issue would cost the owner of a $250,000 house about $8 a month, or $96 a year.
Robertson noted two smaller surveys conducted since 2006 by the township also showed wide support for a community recreation center.
The study indicates that by using some current township staff, along with contracting for other services, the center could be self-sustaining through membership fees, program fees and other revenue sources.
An analysis of costs versus revenue shows in its initial year, if usage expectations are met, the center could make up to $4.2 million in revenue with expenditures at $2.7 million.
"A facility based on the projected square footage has the ability to achieve 100 percent of its full operating costs," the study said.
"Based on the community input process from focus groups and the results of the community-wide statistically valid household survey, there is strong support for a facility of this type in the township."
Five potential sites for a center are identified in the study. Land purchase is not included in the center's price tag.
One location is a vacant 17-acre tract west of Highfield Drive and south of Orange Road. Another location consists of 27 acres south of Home Road and west of the railroad tracks on the east side of U.S. Route 23.
Other sites are 27 acres east of the railroad tracks and north of Lewis Center Road; 29 acres north of Orange Road and west of Bale Kenyon Road; and 25 acres west of Route 23 and south of Home Road.
The 126-page study said a site with about 30 acres is preferred. Based on comparable land sales in the area, the price per acre could run between $40,000 and $90,000.
While most of the people who attended the meeting support a community center, 84-year-old Darrell Hall, a 25-year township resident, strongly opposed it.
"The economy is in trouble," Hall said. "Financially speaking, a lot of us are somewhat hard-pressed. ... I've spent several thousand dollars this year on removal of ash trees. I can't afford any more taxes."
Trustee Lisa Knapp questioned Younger and other study representatives about the conclusions in the report and seemed satisfied the firm had done a good job.
"I'm concerned about balancing costs in these economic times," she said. "It appears it (the center) could be pretty self-sustaining ... and something to benefit the entire community."
Trustees Rob Quigley and Debbie Taranto said they were surprised by the large number of respondents to the survey. Taranto also said the strong support from the community was unexpected.
"We want to do what you want," she said regarding the survey results.
Quigley, who is trustee chairman, said after the meeting that the next step would be further discussion about the center, likely at the board's Sept. 17 meeting.
If trustees decide to go forward with a community recreation center, and if voters approve funding, it probably would take two to 21/2 years before a center is built.