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Newton Falls park board: Raze Community Center

NEWTON FALLS — The Newton Falls Parks and Recreation Board has recommended to Village Council that the closed community center be demolished and a levy be placed on the November ballot to build a new one.

The board voted 2-1 Tuesday on the recommendation, which now will be considered by village council at their 6 p.m. meeting Monday. Voting in favor were board members Joe Battisti and Barbara Beer. Voting against was Bruce Moore. Members Tim Stinson and Jim Drake were absent.

The decision did not sit well with several of the dozen or so people in attendance, including members of the Newton Falls Historic Preservation Foundation who want the building preserved and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Newton Falls Historic Preservation Foundation member Connie Smith Talcott, a village native who is retired and living in Myrtle Beach, said the center is a historic United Service Organizations (USO) building, which is among only about six in the country.

”That building has the potential to be on the National Register of Historic Places. This building is very likely to be approved. Once approved as a historic site it will be easier to get grants. This is worth taking a look at as a viable option and not just demolishing it,” Talcott said.

She said some historic original furniture, is in the building and asked if the foundation could have access to the building for professional engineers and architects to look at. The park board said that request needs to be addressed to village council.

Beer said the center’s stage is caving in and bowing, the floor is spongy and it has other structural issues. She said professionals have looked at the building. Battisti said putting a levy on the ballot will let residents decide if they want a center.

Talcott said the foundation needs six months to create a ”viable plan” for the center so it will be self sustaining when renovated.

”We are not asking for funding. We need six months to come up with a plan,” she said.

The foundation plans to meet with council May 1 on the issue.

Moore said it is worth letting the foundation try to find additional funding for preserving the historic landmark. He said he is against demolishing the building.

”We need to examine other options. We are putting the cart before the horse. It has been closed for a year, what is another six months,” he said.

Village Manager Jack Haney said it would cost between $20,000 and $40,000 to demolish because the center has few walls and more open area.

“Shame on both of you,” Lori Rankin told the two board members who voted to see the building demolished. “They are not asking for money. They are asking for time and a chance with this building.”

Several residents said if the building is demolished, no one will support a levy to rebuild it.

”We need to save that historic landmark. Give the foundation a chance. They area asking for time,” said Debbie Zampino.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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