Violet Township officials think they might have the site for a community center, as well as potential funding options to such a facility, and they plan to roll them out to the public at a Dec. 6 meeting.

During the past six months, Violet Township has been working with Moody Nolan Inc. and Rockmill Financial Consulting LLC, as well as hosting a series of public task-force and focus-group meetings, as officials have tried to move toward the creation of a community center.

The township's trustees have been offered a donation of a land parcel for such a facility, and they've begun to hone in on where a facility would be built, how it would be configured and how much it would cost to operate.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, those officials plan to share the latest information about the potential project in a public meeting set for 7 p.m. in Peace United Methodist Church, 235 Diley Road.

According to township development director Holly Mattei, the meeting will serve as an opportunity to see what township officials are considering, what the timeline might be and what Community Center Finance Committee and Rockmill representatives believe is the best funding package to put before voters.

"It will be a community-forum type of an event where information will be presented to the public by our staff and our consultants," Mattei said. "A conceptual layout of a community center has been created and will be presented at this meeting."

Mattei declined to disclose estimated costs for construction and operation of a township community center, saying the information would be provided at the Dec. 6 meeting.

She said officials hope they'll receive feedback from attendees that would help guide the trustees in deciding if the project should move forward, and what sort of tax-issue funding package should be put on the ballot.

"The trustees will be voting to place the community center project on the ballot at one of their regularly scheduled meetings after Dec. 6," Mattei said. "At this time, I do not know which meeting it will be.

"We still expect that the issue will be on the ballot sometime in 2019."

Land donation

It appears township residents won't have to pay for the land that would house a community center.

In September, Violet Township Director of Operations John Eisel said the township was 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 to facilitate the project.

Township officials have said they want a minimum of 30 acres for the community center development and possible future expansion. The Fairfield County Auditor's Office has appraised the entire Ricketts' site at $944,750.

"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 at that time.

In September, Eisel said the township was exploring two ballot options for 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.

Last week, Mattei said the land donation still was being finalized, but it was "anticipated" a community center would be built on the Ricketts' family land if the project moved forward.

Facility design

In addition to funding recommendations, officials plan to shed light Dec. 6 on how large the community center would be and what it would look like.

Mattei said preliminary designs have been shaped by input collected at focus-group meetings to identify the needs of the community.

"These needs were then translated into a list of spaces, i.e. gym, pool, etc., that could be considered as part of the community center," Mattei said. "Moody Nolan attached estimated costs to each type of space being identified on the list.

"The list was then submitted to the facilities steering committee, who considered the needs identified by the focus groups in relationship to the associated costs.

"The facilities steering committee then made its recommendation on what items should be included in the community center."

Mattei said what those who attend the Dec. 6 presentation will see would be preliminary, conceptual designs. She said final development plans for the facility would not be settled unless voters approve funding.

Program offerings

Township officials have collected public feedback about what types of programs and recreational space a community center would offer. The trustees would finalize those decisions, Mattei said, if funding is in place.

She said it could take "up to three years" from the time funding is approved to design, build and open a community center.

"The 2016 Recreation and Leisure Survey made it clear that Violet Township residents want a community center," Mattei said. "We are one of the only Columbus suburban communities without these recreational opportunities.

"It will provide residents with better access to activities and programs that will contribute to a healthier lifestyle and opportunities for social interaction.

"Community centers have also increasingly become an important economic development driver by attracting and retaining a talented workforce, which can bolster business attraction, retention and expansion.

"There are also studies that show parks and recreation improve the overall economic health of an area," she said.

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