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Residents may decide on center

NEWTON FALLS — A proposal to give residents the say over whether the community center should be saved or demolished was put on hold until after village council hears a presentation from a local historical group.

First Ward Councilman Richard Zamecnik at Monday’s council meeting motioned to place the question before voters in November, but council decided to wait to give time to the Newton Falls Historic Preservation Foundation to plead their case to save the building.

“This issue has become too big for just us to decide. Let the public decide,” Zamecnik said.

The May 1 presentation will include several guest speakers to talk about United Service Organization (USO) buildings like the community center was once.

Zamecnik also motioned to move the meeting to Newton Falls High School to accommodate what is expected to be a large crowd, but council voted the request down 3-2. The reasoning was the equipment to show the meeting live is in council chambers inside Newton Falls Municipal Court and previous meetings where the center was a topic did not draw large crowds.

Voting to keep meeting in council chambers were Tarry Alberini, John Baryak and Phillip Beer. Zamecnik and Mark Stimpert voted to move the meeting.

Monday’s meeting had more than 15 residents with about half speaking about the center.

Village council received a recommendation last month from the parks and recreation board that the center be demolished since it is too costly to maintain and will need extensive upgrades and repairs, but held off on deciding the fate of the building until after the May 1 meeting.

If the question to save or tear down the building is put to voters, a levy to generate money for the improvements and to keep it open would also need to be on the ballot, officials said.

Beer said it would be too costly for the village to repair the plumbing, roof and make other improvements.

“The city can’t afford to keep it. I agree a levy would be needed,” he said.

Village Manager Jack Haney said there has been a lot of concern about “misinformation” being placed on Facebook and other online sites.

In March, Haney said he, Zamecnik and members of the park board were inside the building and found nothing was removed from the interior except exercise equipment bought by the Silver Sneakers exercise group, which moved it to another location.

Resident Debbie Zampino said the reason for so much misinformation “is partly council’s fault for not being willing to work with the foundation.”

“Meet us halfway and see if the center can be saved. There is too much misinformation out there,” she said.

Baryak also recommended council form a committee to look further into the center, but that will also wait until after the May 1 meeting.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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