New and improved recreation opportunities, including construction of a community center, will remain at the forefront of Prairie Township's goals in 2013.

New and improved recreation opportunities, including construction of a community center, will remain at the forefront of Prairie Township's goals in 2013.

"We want to move forward and promote the new community center as a place people want to be," trustee Ron Ball said. "I would like to purchase land to improve areas for ball fields, soccer fields and any other sports for the residents to use."

Where the community center will be located has yet to be determined, but the hope is that those plans will soon be complete, with details made public, township Administrator Tracy Hatmaker said.

"Our goal is to finalize plans, including having a dialogue with the community, and begin to move toward construction," he said. "Once the planning is complete, moving toward construction includes getting the financing in place and having plans for the facility drawn up. The construction contract should be awarded toward the end of summer."

A new community center is possible because voters approved a Joint Economic Development Zone (JEDZ) agreement in 2011. So far, the township has only collected three-quarters of it at $1.2 million and expects to collect more than $2 million next year, Hatmaker said.

"The township will continue to monitor revenue coming in from the JEDZ and the Joint Economic Development District (JEDD), as well as work with the City of Columbus Income Tax Division to ensure that all district businesses are filing with the zone/district," Hatmaker said.

Next year, JEDZ and JEDD spending will go toward the sheriff's contract, parks and the leaf and chipping program along with the community center, Hatmaker said.

"We will support the projects that were promised and keep it on track, plus keep money reserved," Ball said.

Improvements to the West Broad Street corridor will also remain a high priority for the township, although work on the busy strip won't begin until 2014, Hatmaker said.

"We need to get moving on this project so we can have a timely conclusion and improve the look of the West Broad Street corridor," Ball said.

When it comes to the West Broad Street corridor project, the township needs to first assess the revenues of the JEDZ and JEDD and what it can use on the project, Hatmaker said. The township then needs to figure out what the initial investment will be and what the annual maintenance expenditures look like, he said.

After that, he said, there will be continuing economic development and community development efforts for the corridor and surrounding neighborhoods that will become the focus of the Prairie Township Community Improvement Corp. (CIC).

"In 2013, this group will be expanded to include representatives of major employers and then be charged with formulating a strategy for improving the business environment and quality of life in the area," Hatmaker said.

He said the goals the board stressed in the past are still the fundamental items that it will be focusing on in 2013.

Those include fiscal responsibility, high quality and highly reliable services, improving the quality of life in Prairie through neighborhood improvement (projects), and by working through the Darby Accord to ensure responsible community growth under local township government, he said.