Community center plan advances
NEWTON FALLS — Village council by a 4-1 vote Tuesday approved having a draft lease agreement prepared between the village and the Newton Falls Preservation Foundation for the 77-year-old community center.
Council members said they have additional questions to ask the foundation about their proposed plans for the center and have set a work session 5 p.m. Monday at the municipal building. The draft lease agreement also will be reviewed at the meeting.
Third Ward Councilman Mark Stimpert proposed the draft be a three-year renewable lease agreement with the foundation for $1 contingent that the foundation address all mold problems in the center, have a business plan in place, do not hold the village responsible for any liability, handle all remodeling and repairs, and cover all utilities at the building.
He said he wanted the draft to at least be prepared “to get the wheels rolling.”
Law Director Joseph Fritz said the draft agreement will need to contain specifics such as terms and rental costs.
Second Ward Councilman John Baryak said if the preservation group can fulfill their their obligations for the building “I would like to give them the chance. There will be conditions they will have to live up to.”
Foundation members Steve Simpson, Lisa Hoerig and Pam Priddy, who all attended the meeting, said they were appreciative that council is moving forward with their request and at least starting the paperwork.
“We thank you for drafting the lease and moving forward with this,” Hoerig said.
They said more than 50 people attended an informational meeting last week at the park to discuss the foundation’s plans.
The USO building, which opened in 1941, is like only three others in the nation of the same style and design — two in North Carolina and one in Louisiana.
Fourth Ward Councilman Philip Beer, who cast the “no” vote, said there needs to be further review on what the foundation is planning.
“We need to sit down and discuss what needs to be in this lease agreement. The work session will help. It is important that council understand what is involved,” he said.
Councilman-at-large Tarry Alberini said he has many questions about the plans for the center.
“They put a lot of work into their plan. I have questions I would like answered. If this is viable, we want to help make it successful,” he said.
Mayor Lyle Waddell said he also has questions and concerns with the plan and how the center can be opened if its work is not completed.
“There are financial issues. Will you have enough money to get started and pay the utilities?” he said.
The foundation said it needs the lease agreement to have stewardship of the building to seek grants and funding for improvements and renovations to restore the historic USO building.
The foundation proposed seeking grants in 2019 and 2020, start renovations in 2021 with plans to reopen and be fully operational in 2022. Simpson said work to improve the center is estimated at $755,000 with a goal of seeking available state and federal grants and private donations.
The foundation’s plans are to bring the center back to good condition so it can be reopened and begin generating income by offering programs for all ages. Plans are to make the center Americans with Disabilities Act accessible.