Olentangy Valley News

Orange Township rec center

Backers prime for campaign, tout low cost, high demand

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The number 409 may conjure the sounds of the Beach Boys or the smell of cleaning products, but an Orange Township group is invoking it to convince residents to fund a community center.

Friends of Orange Township Community Center is a group of residents campaigning for the 1.4-mill, 29-year bond issue on the Nov. 4 ballot.

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The 409 represents $4.09, which is about what homeowners will pay monthly per $100,000 in property value if the issue passes. That comes to about $49 a year.

"The big question everyone asks me out there is how much (the community center) is going to cost. Well, the answer is $4.09," said Mark Robertson, a former trustee and chairman of the group.

The bond would raise the necessary $27 million to pay for the community center. The 89,000-square-foot center would feature more than 200 programs for all ages and house gymnasiums, fitness areas, banquet rooms, a cafe and an indoor aquatic center.

The center likely would be located north of Lewis Center Road and just east of the railroad tracks. If the bond issue passes, the center's scheduled completion is fall 2016.

"I don't think we could do it any cheaper than this," Robertson said. "Besides it being self-sustaining, it had to be affordable for everybody."

Architects Meyers and Associates designed the center to operate wholly on memberships and other fees, which are estimated at $45 monthly for a family of four, $35 for couples and $30 for individuals.

Township leaders have said they will not ask voters for money to run the center via operating levies.

In fact, the board of trustees won't ask voters to reconsider the community center if it fails. The fall ballot is the only time the center will be put up for vote, township officials said.

Previous boards of trustees have been mulling the possibility of a township rec center for at least a decade. Officials sent surveys to residents over the years to gauge interest in the idea.

The current board voted in July to place the bond issue on the November ballot and end the 10-year debate.

Friends of Orange Township Community Center members are being encouraged to inform neighbors about the center and the bond issue by directly speaking to them or promoting the issue on social media.

"This is probably going to be the last shot at this," Robertson said. "This is pretty much a one-time deal."

The group is accepting campaign donations to help pay for literature that explains how the center is a need in the community.

Opponents have argued the center is more a want than a need.

Park board Chairman David Chambers said a feasibility study and survey results indicated a recreation center is a top priority for residents.

"Trails and the community center are two things (residents) wanted to see in this community and the No. 1 thing they want their tax money to pay for," Chambers said. "Those are two big studies that had feedback from the community itself saying that this is what they want.

"You can call it a want, you can call it a need, but when it's No. 1, I look at it as a need."

Friends of Orange Township Community Center's next meeting is set for 7 p.m. today, Sept. 4, at the North Orange Park Shelter House, 7560 Gooding Blvd.

Donations can be mailed to 155 E. Broad St., Columbus 43215, in care of the group.

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