Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 3, 2013

Is a community center a want or need for us?


— One of the fundamental processes when it comes to establishing financial responsibility in life is distinguishing between wants and needs. Consider car shopping as an example. Can we afford to pay extra for the heated leather seats, or will the cloth seats suit our needs? The V-6 would be nice, but should we consider fuel economy down the road?

This is essentially what the Goshen community is faced with when it comes to a proposed $35 million community/aquatic center project, a version of which just may end up in the hands of voters for a referendum vote later this year. And we’re not afraid to say it: This community center plan looks awesome. The plan as it has been presented calls for the construction of a nearly 99,000-square-foot facility that would house three swimming pools, three basketball courts, a running track, a fitness center/weight room and multiple community rooms. The current outdated pool facilities at Goshen High School and Goshen Middle School would then be closed and those spaces re-purposed. The project also includes some small additions at both schools.

The proposed project is set for the site of the former city garage, just beyond the west bank of the millrace. Project creator Don Minter and project manager Bruce Stahly have devoted a tremendous amount of work to put this plan together and bring it to the people. We commend them for their efforts along with the rest of the community center executive committee.

But sometimes it is best to kick the tires a while longer, shore up the checkbook and continue to evaluate cost-benefits before signing the loan papers too quickly. As great as this project looks on paper, there are questions and concerns for the public to consider before rushing to judgment. Therefore, we were encouraged when the executive committee announced last week that it plans to move the referendum back from May to November. It was the right thing to do. The reason for the slowdown is to give the public more time to offer input and the committee more time to tweak the plan if necessary to best serve the public.

There has been talk of a community center in Goshen for years, but when formal plans were announced in December 2012, the response seemed lukewarm at best and there was a perceived lack of trust in the process. We believe the two biggest concerns of community members are the proposed location and the estimated cost. The executive committee plans to further consider both in the months to come before a potential November vote. Good for them.

Again, we love the concept of this community center. We’re just not sure it’s the right plan at the right time at the right price. Therefore we have to continue to ask ourselves as taxpayers, “What do we want, what do we need and what can we can afford?” We’re grateful the community will have more opportunity to talk through this plan and arrive at a solution we all can live with.