Weathersfield seeks funding for community center

WEATHERSFIELD — Trustees will seek funds from the 2018 state capital budget to fund construction of a community center.

The state of Ohio’s biennial Capital Budget, enacted in even-numbered years, provides appropriations for the repair, reconstruction and construction of capital assets of state agencies, colleges, universities and school districts, according to the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. Trustees approved Tuesday seeking such an appropriation.

Weathersfield Township Administrator David Rouan said preliminary estimates put the cost of a community center at $500,000, and if the capital budget request is approved, it would be built at no cost to residents. Rouan said Weathersfield Community Park off state Route 46 is the slated location for the community center.

The park, which is owned by Weathersfield Public Schools, was once the site of Mineral Ridge Middle School. The school, built in 1873, was demolished several years ago and since that time the township has made improvements to the land, including construction of a gazebo that was built with a grant through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Sidewalks, flagpoles, lighting and other infrastructure also have been installed, Rouan said. The hope is to build a place for town hall meetings, community enrichment programs, festivals and other purposes, Rouan said, and it would include a combined indoor and outdoor stage, kitchen, restrooms, storage and a meeting area.

“Every year, there have been investments (at Weathersfield Community Park),” Rouan said. “Some of those improvements are hard to see because it is infrastructure underground. But every year a little bit more is invested to hopefully prepare the site for a community center, but also at some point we hope to have a public library there as well.”

Trustee Steven Gerberry questioned if the township is “putting the cart before the horse” in seeking funds for construction on land the school district still owns. Rouan said the appropriation can still be used even if the township doesn’t own the property.

Trustee Gil Blair said the idea of a community center is a good one given that Weathersfield residents living in different areas like Mineral Ridge or McKinley Heights go to different places for community gatherings or meetings. A resident said the township has lost things along the way, like the post office and the bank, which served as the township’s central “identity.”

“This is an ideal opportunity for us,” Blair said.

In other business, trustees approved by a vote of 2-1 a new fire department policy that requires any volunteer firefighters who voluntarily resign during the first year to repay the township for the cost of Ohio Fire Academy training. Costs and expenses can reach several thousand dollars and Blair and Gerberry, who voted in favor of the policy, said it is necessary so the township isn’t training people who quickly leave for other jobs.

Trustee Marvin McBride, who voted against the policy, said it is wrong to create such a policy that will only stand in the way of young people who are trying to move up in the world.