The Press Newspaper
About 100 residents packed into Oregon council chambers Tuesday to respond to the recreation committee’s proposal to gauge whether there is public support for construction of a multi-use recreation/community facility.
The vast majority of those attending were for such a facility, but some stressed they did not want to see additional taxes paying for it.
Mayor Mike Seferian echoed those words by promising there will be no levy on the ballot for a recreation facility.
“At first, I was led to believe it would be some sort of a private venture,” Seferian said. “We do pride ourselves in trying not to ask for any new taxes in the community.
“Any type of new facility like this would have to have new funding source — whether it comes from the private sector or a new tax levy. I would like to proceed with caution before having a new tax levy — that is not something I would want to do.
“I think we’re really looking at some kind of private venture. To come up with new money sources, what I’ve heard from the community is I don’t think the money is there. We’re still looking at new ways to cut spending here, so I hope we’re looking at the private sector,” Seferian continued.
There were residents who insisted it could take a tax levy to get the project done.
Oregon recreation board member Mike McGee said, “I definitely want to see a committee be formed to see if this is viable to the community of Oregon. I know we as a community have bonded together for different things for the school. I do agree with the mayor that we do not want a tax, but I’m a taxpayer, too. I do believe the people here wouldn’t mind paying for something if it we spent the money correctly.”
In last week’s issue of The Press, Council President Tom Susor was quoted saying it would take a levy, and he did not deny it at Tuesday’s meeting.
Oregon school board member P.J. Kapfhammer said school levies must come first, adding that if school funding issues are not taking care of athletics could be cut in four years.
“This is not going to happen on any ballot — not if I am going to have anything to say about it,” Kapfhammer said. “I am the biggest supporter of athletics, I feel. But I am going to tell you straight up, if we don’t pass a levy for the school we will stop having sports.”
In the end, council members on the recreation committee made a motion to recommend to city council that a steering committee be formed to look into potential funding for a recreation facility.
“This is an indication of the strength and cohesiveness of our community that we have this kind of turnout,” Sheehy said. “I have a feeling that it would entail some of the other jurisdictions here in the Oregon area.”
Councilman Dan Walendzak followed suit, saying, “People in my age demographic are making choices right now about where they are going to live based on amenities they have in their communities. I believe we should form a committee to start exploring this — it’s not a guarantee that our taxes are going to be raised, but the conversation has to be done.
“This is an issue that’s bigger than seven councilmen and a mayor — this is an issue that involves the entire community,” Walendzak added.
Committee members listened to over two hours of testimony before making their recommendation.
“With the input that we have tonight, I think it is enough input to put a steering committee together,” said Councilman Terry Reeves, the recreation committee chairman. “We want to have people in this that are going to give us the straight facts. We want to make sure we get the right people on there who want to help raise funds, who want to search for grants.
Most residents in attendance had special interests — a new senior center, new ice rink, new theater, indoor soccer, and so forth, that they wanted to see become a part of the center.
“The last thing, I want to say, I will not support this if it does not support the seniors. Don’t be surprised if some of you (from all special interests) get a call about being on this committee,” Reeves continued.
Pickle Road resident Doris Levy said she helped fight for a new senior center until the Area Office of Aging offered $1 million which would have to be matched by the city. She was upset the deal fell through.
“Here, Oregon wants everything recreation, recreation, recreation. I am not against recreation, but we have to get a senior center first. We have the smallest senior center in Lucas County. Oregon has very little for seniors and Paula (Benton) works hard to raise money to keep that (James “Wes” Hancock Senior Center) open.”
Also in attendance were officials from the Eastern YMCA and Cardinal Stritch Catholic High School offering to partner. While Seferian said the city’s contribution could be infrastructure and city-owned land, Father Eric Schild, Stritch president, mentioned the 15-acre Tschann Property recently donated to the school. YMCA officials said they also had eight acres adjacent that were available.
“Maybe we need to think big. Maybe we need to think bigger than we are,” Oregon attorney Scott Winckowski said.
Resident Hans Giller said, “The only way you raise money is you think outside the box. There is a lot of creative thinking we need to do to raise money. Sports are mostly important to developers, but also theater, arts, figure skating develops people to get leadership and confidence.
“I look at a community center because of this — it provides jobs,” Giller continued. “Here’s another opportunity for our kids to get job experience. There are foundations, there are agencies out there, who are really looking to fund good programs.”