Violet Township officials said they hope to recruit community members from all walks of life and types of interests to take part in focus groups this month in an effort to help shape a possible community-center project.

During a May 10 meeting, approximately 175 attendees sat, for the most part, and listened to Violet Township officials and representatives of the Moody Nolan architectural firm and Rockmill Financial Consulting discuss why the township might pursue a community center and how the process for developing such a project could evolve.

The meeting wasn't meant to serve as a forum for debate of whether the project should go forward, Violet Township Development Director Holly Mattei said.

That decision, ultimately, will be decided by a ballot issue if a measure is sought to fund such a facility.

But now, the township and its consultants are seeking public participation through a series of focus groups that will meet throughout the weeks of June 11 and 18.

They're asking for people who might be interested in providing feedback about programs and activities a community center might offer to take part.

The focus groups include:

* Arts and theater

* Aquatics

* Ice rink

* Moms/toddlers

* Seniors

* Site selection and affiliated economic development

* Teens/tweens

* Youth sports

Because groups and meeting schedules still are being formulated, Mattei said, the best way for someone to be part of a focus group is to call her at 614-575-5556, or send email to Holly.Mattei@violet.oh.us.

"The (May 10) meeting was set up more in presentation form," Mattei said.

"Now, there are going to be focus groups ... and there will be future public meetings where comments and concerns can be expressed.

"We're creating these focus groups that really anyone can be a part of."

Focus group participation isn't limited to township residents, Mattei said.

She's hopeful Pickerington residents will take part in the planning process, because any community center that would result from the process would be meant to serve Violet Township and Pickerington.

"This is a Violet Township Community Center that we are working toward, and that includes the city of Pickerington," Mattei said.

"(Pickerington residents) will be part of the vote for any kind of funding package that would come forward and we want them to be part of the community center."

Mattei said township officials and Moody Nolan representatives would be on hand at the focus-group meetings to ask general questions about activity and program needs and wants related to their groups.

Information provided by the focus groups will go to two committees the township will create to further determine the feasibility of a community center.

The Program Steering Committee will be charged with dialing in specific activities and programs a local community center might provide. The committee is made up of various stakeholders ranging from business representatives, landowners, realtors, representatives of the healthcare industry, city and county parks and recreation officials and other local advocates.

The Finance Steering Committee would seek to use information such as program preferences, a construction site and staffing levels to determine how much the project would cost and what type of ballot issue might be to pursued. The committee is comprised of residents with financial backgrounds or those simply interested in how the project might be financed.

"Those two committees are going to go back and forth to determine what the right package is and what it would cost," Mattei said. "That's all to be determined. Moody Nolan will take the focus-group meeting information and start to come up with general ideas to provide to the committees."

In addition to the focus groups, Mattei stressed the public will have opportunities to provide input during various stages throughout the feasibility and planning processes, including if and when the Violet Township trustees debate a funding package to put before voters.

"We're not going to be ready for this November," Mattei said. "We're looking at possibly going to the ballot sometime in 2019. We want to make sure we get this right."

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@ThisWeekNate