Violet Township residents next year can expect to be asked to support a tax increase to finance a local community center, but the costs could be reduced if land is donated for the project.

According to Violet Township Director of Operations John Eisel, the township is working on a deal in which the Ricketts family would donate at least a portion of a 79-acre site on the southeast corner of Pickerington and Refugee roads where a community center could be constructed.

"I think it would be safe to say the Ricketts family has made a very generous commitment to donate land that they have available for this purpose," Eisel said.

"The discussions we've had would be for the acreage we need for a community center."

Township Development Director Holly Mattei said the Fairfield County Auditor's Office has appraised the entire site at $944,750.

The donation, including just how much of the land might be donated, isn't a done deal. But Mattei said the site offers more than enough space to house a community center township officials and residents envision.

"We need a minimum of 30 acres, but we would like additional acreage for future expansion," she said. "We don't want to box ourselves in."

If the deal could be struck, it would reduce the amount of money the township would need voters to approve through a tax issue to fund construction and operations of a community center.

"Because of the potential land donation, it makes is so much more feasible to reduce the cost of the overall project," Mattei said.

Eisel said the township hopes to be "poised and ready to go" to the ballot "some time in 2019."

Before that can be done, however, the township's consultant, Moody Nolan, is compiling a feasibility study that will present funding options for the construction and operation of a community center.

That information will be given to the township's Program Steering Committee and Finance Steering Committee, groups that respectively are determining what types of activities should be offered at the center and what type of ballot issue or issues will be put before township voters.

The committees are expected to meet in October, potentially multiple times, before presenting a proposal for the sizes and scopes of the construction project, center operations and the funding package to Violet Township trustees.

"The trustees want to make sure they're comfortable with what the committees come up with before they present it to the public," Mattei said.

"Then they'll seek feedback to see if the public likes what we've come up with.

"We may have to go back and revise something based upon the feedback."

Mattei estimated the trustees could hold public discussions of the plans this winter, but said the timetable is fluid.

"We don't want to hold a meeting until we have valuable and tangible information to provide to the public, which will allow them to give valuable and tangible feedback to us," she said.

"We can go back to the drawing board if we need to, or maybe they'll like it."

In addition to a project site and programming the center would offer, township officials will have to decide what to put on the ballot to pay for it.

Mattei said research conducted by Rockmill Financial concluded that of communities in central Ohio that have or are considering publicly-run recreation centers, Violet Township has the second-largest tax base.

She said the firm's study found only Dublin, with a tax base of $2.06 billion, is larger than Violet Township's $1.1 billion tax base.

Township officials are looking at two possible ballot issue options they might place before voters in 2019.

One would cover both the costs of construction and ongoing operations.

The second would involve two ballot issues -- a construction bond and a levy to finance operations -- before voters.

"This is an extremely large project," Eisel said.

"We want to do this once and we want to do it right."

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