Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

January 15, 2013

School board may send project to public vote

GOSHEN — Goshen Board of School Trustees members Monday voted in favor of authorizing a preliminary determination hearing connected to the possible construction of a $35.6 million Goshen Community Center project.

The results of the hearing, which is set for the board’s Jan. 28 meeting, will determine whether or not the project will go to a referendum and be voted on by the public.

With the preliminary determination hearing now approved, board members during their Jan. 28 meeting will examine the project in full along with all of its pros, cons and projected costs before making their final decision on whether or not to allow the project to go to a referendum. Members of the public are also invited to attend the meeting to voice any comments or concerns they may have.

Board president Jane Troup was quick to note that the Jan. 28 vote is not a vote on whether or not to actually build the center. Instead, if the board votes in favor of the referendum, the project will then go before the public in a special referendum this spring where the public will be able to decide whether or not they are willing to take on a 20-year bond issue to help pay for the project — essentially giving the project a green light. If the board votes against letting it go to referendum, the project dies on the table.

“We aren’t deciding if the project moves forward,” Troup said. “If we get a yes, then we put it out there so the community can vote. We’re asking the community to help us make a decision on this.”

According to the most recent project plans, the bulk of the community center project would involve the construction of a $27.6 million facility located at the former city garage property on the Millrace’s west side that would include an aquatic center with a wellness and therapy pool; a recreation pool and a competition pool; a gymnasium, a fitness center with an indoor track and meeting rooms.

In addition, the project would also involve approximately $7 million in renovations and construction at Goshen High School and Goshen Middle School which would reclaim current spaces and add on to fitness areas. Through the school renovations, the pool areas of both schools would be converted to new spaces to help alleviate space problems in music programs and add additional workout and fitness spaces.

For her part, Troup said she is in favor of letting the public decide on the project, whether or not she or anyone else on the board personally feels the project is a good or bad idea.

“For me, the important piece on the determination hearing is that we are giving the community members a vote, rather than just seven of us making a decision,” Troup said. “It’s the democratic process.”

Board member Cathie Cripe also commented that while there are likely to be a few voices at the Jan. 28 meeting that are strongly opposed to the project, those voices may not be wholly representative of the entire community’s viewpoint on the matter.

“I also believe that people who are against something are more apt to speak out,” Cripe said. “I think it’s our obligation to give everyone a chance to vote.”

In looking forward to the Jan. 28 meeting, Troup advised the board to remain focused on what she feels is the most important aspect of the vote — how the vote will affect the school corporation’s students moving forward.

“We need to keep our focus on what are the needs of our students,” Troup said. “That is our responsibility.”

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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