After much discussion of its possible location and programs, Violet Township residents last week found out how much officials could ask them to ante up for a community center.

The answer: $46 million via an approximately 4.59-mill parks and recreation levy that could be put before voters in May.

Whether the project will move forward at all, as well as at that price, will depend on a vote by the Violet Township trustees.

At this point, it's unclear exactly when that will take place, but Violet Township Development Director Holly Mattei said the vote "possibly" could take place "in January."

"Let's say they proceed to the ballot, then it's up to you," said John Eisel, Violet Township director of operations. "It's up to you, the will of the voters, whether we do this project or not."

Township officials rolled out conceptual decisions and the price tag for a proposed 95,000-square-foot community center during a meeting Dec. 6 at Peace United Methodist Church.

All aspects are subject to be revised, and the trustees could choose not to move forward.

As proposed, however, the project would be built on at least 30 acres at the southeast corner of Pickerington and Refugee roads. The township is in negotiations to receive the land through a donation from the Ricketts family, who owns 79 acres there, with the entire site being appraised by the Fairfield County Auditor's Office at $944,750.

Conceptual designs call for a two-story building with enough land to house expansions of the facility.

The first floor is proposed to include two gymnasiums that would contain a welcome desk, staff offices, two, full-size basketball courts, a child watch area for parents who are using the facility, three multipurpose rooms and a study or "quiet" area.

A competition swimming pool and a leisure pool, as well as separate locker rooms for men and women, a universal family changing room and "team" room also would be on the first floor.

The second floor would feature a one-tenth-of-a-mile track. Inside the track would be a fitness space, two exercise classrooms, a "messy arts and crafts room" and space for the facility's mechanical equipment.

The proposed features were selected after township officials gathered public input at a meeting in May, as well as feedback from eight programming focus groups.

Additionally, a Financial Task Force consisting of 37 residents met five times, and the township was assisted by consultants from Moody Nolan Inc. and Rockmill Financial Consulting LLC.

"It's something that is truly community-driven by those groups," Mattei said.

Mattei said the project is being planned with future expansion, outdoor aquatics, and that the community center would serve as an "anchor" for surrounding economic development. There also are concepts for a multipurpose path to provide pedestrian and bicycle access to the site along Refugee Road, extending west to Pizza Hut at 810 Refugee Road.

According to township officials, the 4.59-mill levy, if approved, is subject to county auditor certification and Rockmill managing partner David Conley said the millage could be "rounded off."

According to information provided by the township, the proposed levy would be permanent and would cost homeowners $13.39 per month per $100,000 of home valuation. For a year, that cost would be $160.68 per $100,000 of home valuation.

Based on the proposed millage, township officials said the levy would generate approximately $5.31 million.

Of that annual amount, about $3.1 million would be applied toward paying off the building in 25 years, $2 million would be used for operations and $210,000 could be used for maintenance and replacement of equipment.

Conley said financial studies found the project should be affordable for the majority of Violet Township homeowners.

"They concluded when we went through this process that the cost of the facility was well within the reach and the affordability of many of the residents of this community," Conley said.

Depending on if the trustees approve the placement of a levy on the ballot and its passage by voters, officials said the project likely would take 18 to 24 months to construct.

Following the presentation to unveil the concept designs and proposed levy, audience comments and questions were taken.

Among those who spoke were Tricia Gerencser, who expressed concern about residents' ability to afford such a levy given the volume of people the Pickerington Food Pantry is providing food assistance to currently.

According to the pantry's website, it serves more than 600 people in the Pickerington Schools District each month.

Others noted Groveport offers a community center to some senior citizens free of charge after officials said they currently don't have information about how much annual membership fees would cost for the Violet Township community center.

Gerencser's husband, Joe Gerencser, also said Violet Township didn't need the center, and the proposed project is too costly.

He also called into question the results of a 2016 survey the township conducted to gauge support for a community center because he believed a large number of people who received the survey didn't return it.

"Does Violet Township need this?" he said. "Do you have an in-depth data in terms of how many of those questionnaires were distributed to the residents of Violet Township? How many were actually returned and how many were 'pro' and how many were 'con?' "

According to information on a township-run website, www.investwithviolet.com, 67 percent of respondents strongly agreed a community center was needed and 24 percent agreed a community center was needed.

The site states that 4,000 households received the survey and 1,001 surveys were completed.

Another perspective was offered by Judie Monson, who said she joined the Financial Task Force for the project because she believes residents of all ages would benefit from a community center, and that it could provide activities that would help keep children and teenagers from involvement in drugs and other destructive or criminal activities.

"I support it no matter what," Monson said. "There's a desperate need in this community for a recreation center and there has been for years.

"I hope it passes."

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