Crews broke ground Sept. 22 for a new Etna Township community center.

Crews broke ground Sept. 22 for a new Etna Township community center.

The community center/township hall, which is expected to open in February, will be built on Liberty Street, facing the park. The main entrance will be on Liberty, with a side entrance on the north side of the building. Parking will be on the south and west sides of the building.

"We're building it for our residents to use also," trustee Dick Knapp said. "We'll be working on establishing some rules for it in the future."

Trustee Paul George said the township is considering ways to allow people to use the building. One example could involve a key card. An event organizer could use the card to enter the building and set up for a meeting or special event. After the event, the card would expire and the person no longer could access the building -- much the way hotels provide key cards for rooms.

Knapp said the facility could be used for weddings, birthday parties or senior citizens' events.

"We need to get some sort of policy in place by the time the building opens," he said.

George has been trying for four years to get a new township hall built, at one point even carrying around a sketch of a design. He said when ground is broken Monday, he'll be the happiest man in the township.

"I'm as anxious as any man you ever saw to get this project done," he said.

George said the building is 3,727 square feet and includes a meeting room that will seat 200 to 250.

Knapp said it includes a kitchen and offices for the township secretary, fiscal officer, trustees and zoning department. A spare office could be used for the Licking County Sheriff's Office.

Restrooms on the north side of the building could be open during the day for park visitors. Knapp said the township still is considering ways to make restrooms available to the public.

Robertson Construction is in charge of building the center, having submitted a low bid of $444,700.

George said if the township changes its parking lot from asphalt to concrete, another $3,100 could be saved.

Construction is estimated to take 168 days.

The initial design for the building was done by David Hawkins. The Architectural Ltd. and Project Construction Co. in Hebron finished the project. It is being built on land the township already owned.

George said he had asked Licking County commissioners to vacate a portion of right of way on Liberty Street to allow the building to be built without violating right-of-way restrictions. Commissioners approved the request last year.

Trustees currently meet in the township hall on state Route 310. It was built in 1902 and contains one small room that doubles as meeting space and administrative offices. A small records room and restroom are in the back of the building. The roof leaks, George said, and cold air tends to blow through the old windows in the building all winter long.

George said he isn't sure what the township will do with the old building. He said the historical society might see value in it, but he's not sure what it could be used for.

"The roof leaks so I'm not sure that we could even use it for storage," he said.

Both Knapp and George called the construction of a new town hall a historic occasion.

lwince@thisweeknews.com