By AMANDA GRAY
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Picture this: A large facility with multiple pools, fitness areas and community meeting rooms in the heart of Goshen. The facility would be accessible by foot traffic or by vehicle, made affordable for membership and use.
It’s the proposed Goshen Community Center, which may be green-lit soon if it passes through the Goshen City Council, Goshen Community School Board and Goshen voters, according to project director Bruce Stahly.
The $35.6 million project, which also includes renovations and construction at two Goshen schools, would be paid for through a combination of private partners, donors and bonds issued to taxpayers, according to a presentation created by Stahly, the recently retired superintendent of Goshen Community Schools.
While some people may balk at the price tag, Stahly said he thinks the project is worthy of pursuit for the greater good of the community.
“We’re not going into this blind thinking it will be easy,” Stahly said Thursday. “We know it’s going to be difficult. ... I think Goshen is a great community, and like the new slogan says, ‘Common Good. Uncommonly Great,’ this community center is being built for the common good. I think it will make Goshen a better community.”
The project must first pass through a preliminary determination hearing in January with the school board Jan. 28 and the city council Jan. 15, Stahly said. This preliminary determination hearing is to decide whether or not the project should be voted on through a referendum in May.
The two-part referendum would go to Goshen voters, asking for the taxpayers to take on a 20-year bond issue, Stahly said. One question would focus on the city’s portion of the cost, and the other on the school corporation’s portion. The maximum city tax impact is $18.4 million, while the school corporation’s maximum tax impact is $17.2 million, for a combined maximum total of $35.575 million, according to numbers provided by Stahly.
Paying for the project
The cost of the bonds to taxpayers would be determined by home and property values. While no exact number of what the bond would cost is available, Stahly and the rest of the project’s committee members have been able to construct what would be the maximum cost, he said.
In Goshen, the median home value is $107,200, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The combined maximum cost of the bonds for a home at this value is $84.48 per year, according to Stahly’s worksheet. The bonds would be for 20 years, creating a total cost of $1,689.60 over the lifetime of the bond for this homeowner.
Is it worth it? Stahly said he thinks so.
“The whole emphasis of the project is trying to build community,” Stahly said. “Goshen is a good community. The project members are looking at what could we add that would make it a better community.”
If passed through all the stages of approval and constructed, the $27.6 million structure would include an aquatic center with a wellness and therapy pool; a recreation pool and a competition pool; a gymnasium and fitness center with an indoor track, basketball and volleyball courts and rooms for aerobics and other fitness classes; and family and activity rooms with meeting spaces for clubs, small groups and community events.
Around $7 million in renovations and construction at the high school and middle school would reclaim current spaces and add on to fitness areas. Both schools’ pool areas would be converted to new spaces to help alleviate space problems in music and other programs, according to Stahly.
The project has been in the works for several years, Stahly said. According to the presentation, the idea of a community center has been a part of the Goshen Park and Recreation Department’s five-year plan for the last 10 years. In 2008, a group of community members converged on the idea, which was “reaffirmed” by a feasibility study done in 2011, according to the presentation.
The group focused on five needs of the community the center would meet, including the needs for sports and recreational activities, water physical therapy, structured fitness and wellness programs for all ages, replacement of the pools at Goshen High School and Goshen Middle School and community space for small groups and families, according to the presentation.
A community in need
Needs for Goshen’s middle and high schools stem from well before the community discussion for a center. In fact, space concerns for the orchestra and band programs were apparent for the high school not long after the high school’s 1997 renovation, according to school Superintendent Diane Woodworth.
“In the 1997 model, the school’s band and orchestra areas got short-changed,” Woodworth said Friday. “There’s never really been adequate space for those programs.”
The community center project gives an opportunity to improve problems at the middle and high schools by eliminating pool areas, converting those spaces into a fitness room at the high school and a band room at the middle school, Woodworth said. While these projects are under way, it’s cost-effective to include other construction and renovation at the same time, she said.
Other construction includes a kitchen addition at the middle school, and a band addition at the high school, both projects considered by the school district long before the community center idea took hold, Woodworth said. While these projects could be completed by the school separately, Woodworth said it’s worthwhile to work together.
“Right now, we’re putting our energy into working with the city, pooling our resources ... To me, what we can do together is greater than what we can do separately,” Woodworth said. “If we combine our resources, we have something everyone in the city can use.”
Mayor Allan Kauffman said he drives through other communities with community centers and sees them as a resource.
“They’re wonderful attractions for these communities,” he said.
Beyond the community’s current need for the center, Kauffman said he also sees the benefit of working with the school corporation to fund the project.
“The opportunity we have right now to partner with the school corporation is a rare one, and we don’t want to lose it,” he said. “If we don’t partner with them now, they’ll have to go off on their own. It’s a pretty nice opportunity to pool our resources and I hope the community would support it.”
Redeveloping for the future
Community Development Director Mark Brinson said Thursday the proposed site for the Goshen Community Center fits with the vision the River Race Redevelopment Committee had for the parcel of land.
The land, along the west bank of the millrace, across the water from the Hawks Building, will be donated to the project, pending the approval of the project through the referendum vote, according to a resolution passed by the Redevelopment Commission in October.
“If the bonds are passed, there would be a formal agreement written up,” Brinson said Thursday.
Brinson said the Redevelopment Commission will also have a commission member on the technical committee for the project, according to what Stahly said at the October meeting. This person would look at the project and other intended development along the millrace and try to keep projects in similar styles, according to Brinson.
The spot of land intended for the community center previously held buildings for the Street Department, and at one time long ago possibly held a trolley repair shop and a construction company’s headquarters, Brinson said. The north portion of the property also had structures from the Hawks Furniture Co.
“We did a clean-up project,” Brinson said. “It involved removal of the contaminated soil, and things like buried fuel tanks, and then we put a soil cap on the site.”
Brinson said the development is a positive move for the community — one that might generate even more development.
“One thing we see as a positive from this project is that it will bring people to downtown,” Brinson said. “It’s also an amenity to serve the residents in that area near the millrace and Goshen, and it could bring more development to that area. From a larger community perspective, I see it as a project that would add to the quality of life downtown.”
Stahly has spent the last few weeks preparing for and hosting focus groups. These groups have been made up of neighborhood leaders, business owners and other community members, Stahly said, and he’s already begun looking at what concerns they’ve brought up about the project.
“We’ll do much more analysis than what we’ve done already,” he said.
Between now and the January meeting with the school board and the city council, Stahly and the rest of the executive committee will be preparing for questions and comments from the public. He’ll make presentations and talk with concerned community members, and is also working to speak with other potential large donors, he said.
When it comes to owning and operating the building, duties will be split, he said. Goshen Community Schools and the city of Goshen will split the ownership of the physical structure, as determined by the bonds, if passed by the vote.
The management will be overseen by a board of directors through Goshen Community Center Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization set up to direct and manage the center. The first few years of the center’s existence would be helped by an endowment, Stahly said, established to help with costs until they can be met by the facility’s income.
“The city and school board will have added representation on the board of directors,” Stahly said. “They will control all of the hiring and management.”
The project will also have a website within a month, Stahly said. Visitors can soon go to www.goshencommunitycenter.com to learn more about the project, donate to the fund or leave comments, he said.
“From the focus groups and other comments, we’re seeing a need for this center,” Stahly said. “People will be able to leave feedback and get answers to their questions.”
What will this cost?
Costs for the community center
Costs for additional school projects
GRAND TOTAL: $35,575,000