The Oregon Recreation and Parks Committee will host a public hearing on Tuesday, March 13 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 5330 Seaman Road, to gauge whether there is public support for the construction of a multi-use recreation/community facility.
“We’re looking for public input on the potential for moving forward with a new recreation design and get some indoor facilities,” said Council President Tom Susor.
“What we do well is recreation, and we have for years,” he added. “We’ve stood in one spot long enough. Some communities have surpassed us in some instances. We need to step up our game. We need to make Oregon a place where my children want to stay. Making a better quality of life only adds to our ability to attract business and restaurants. Given our 28 ½ square miles and our sparse population, as far as development goes, they’re looking at those rooftops. Having a better recreation facility would help us in that direction.”
A majority on council, he said, “believes we can do something,” said Susor.
“But we need to gauge whether there is truly a public interest. “We’re going to give some rough ideas of what we’re thinking, but we’re more here to gather information. If you say you’re committed to having us improve our recreation and improve our facilities, then are you willing to take steps necessary to make that all happen?” said Susor. The public would have to fund such a project, he said.
“Definitely a levy. There’s no other way around that,” said Susor. “And we’ve looked at ways to make that happen. But first of all, what we want to do is listen to the population and see what they have to say.”
Invited to the public meeting are officials from the school district, Jerusalem Township, soccer, volleyball, baseball, and hockey organizations, and others who might be interested in forming a joint recreation facility, he said.
“We’re looking at the total look of recreation. There’s some fractured groups out there right now looking at doing some things in the community. If we’re going to do something, and do it properly, we all have to be able to get in the same canoe, and look in the same direction. That’s going to mean sacrifice from each of the groups. Nobody gets everything they want. But if we all get a bit of what we want, I think the direction can be a positive one,” said Susor.
Councilman Dennis Walendzak said forming a joint recreation district with another entity to share recreational services is down the road. He emphasized that the meeting is just to get feedback from the community.
“We’re going to explore something with the schools or even with Northwood or Lake Township to see if they would like to come to the table and explore the idea of combining services and recreation. But that’s down the road. We’re not sure where it’s going to go. The meeting on Tuesday is really just to gauge public opinion on support of a multi-use center,” he said.
“If we see a lot of positive feedback from the community and they want us to proceed with exploring the construction of something like that, then we would look at other options to see if there are other communities interested in doing this with us. I think we would be foolish not to explore what other communities are seeking in their recreation and see if we can help facilitate recreation for multiple jurisdictions with shared services,” said Walendzak.
“Potentially, down the line, the facility could include an ice rink. But then there would be more annual expenses. Is the community willing to support a structure like that? There would be a large cost to build an ice house with a chiller unit. There’s also the cost of annual maintenance and running an ice arena,” he said. “That’s a question we’d have to ask our citizens.”
Plans could also include using part of the facility for a new senior center, which has been discussed for years.
“It could either be a portion of the building itself, or a smaller building next to it,” said Walendzak. “So they would have their own facility, and use the fitness and wellness areas within a larger building.”
The facility would likely be located on city owned property near the municipal complex off Seaman Road as well as off Starr Avenue Extension, he said.
Walendzak agreed that a levy or bond issue would have to fund a recreation/community facility.
“In the most ideal world, you’d have people step up and provide donations to help with the capital cost. If you don’t get that, then you’d have to issue bonds for 10-20 years to complete the capital infrastructure. We may need an operations levy. We just don’t know what the costs are going to be. Based on what we see Tuesday, that would start framing our cost structure. We have no plans yet. We’re just trying to formulate what the community would want, what areas of the community we would be able to serve. Can we service the non-athletic community as far as theater, arts and music in this type of facility? If we go through with this, it has to be a community facility, not just an athletic facility,” he said.