Cooperation brings hope for N. Falls

Newton Falls officials and a local nonprofit organization finally may be coming to an agreement about the future of the village’s historic community center.

Some village council members believe repair, upkeep and routine operating costs at the aging Newton Falls Community Center are unaffordable.

However, the Newton Falls Historic Preservation Foundation has been adamant that the building, constructed in 1942 originally as a United Services Organization center, should be reopened. It was mothballed in early 2016 after the municipality lost about $250,000, or nearly a quarter of its annual income tax revenue, following a ballot issue that reinstated a “tax forgiveness.”

After more than a year of squabbling over the building’s future, council last week agreed to consider granting the preservation foundation an opportunity to lease and operate the building.

In July, we used this space to call on the village to consider allowing the foundation — or any similar interested agency — an opportunity to take over operations, as long as the operator was willing and able to take on the costs of repairing and operating the facility.

It’s true, a renovated, historic community center would be a wonderful asset, but as we often maintain, government’s foremost responsibility must be to provide essential services. Sadly, that may not include operating a community center that is in need of expensive repairs and upkeep.

Under a professional services agreement, however, the nonprofit foundation might be able to pursue grants and fundraising efforts without the use of already-limited taxpayer funds.

Of course, the building still would be owned by the public, so certain conditions would have to be spelled out to ensure it is made available for public use and that the facility remains safe and in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations.

So far, the foundation seems agreeable to the possibility and now village Law Director Joseph Fritz is working on drafting a lease, which could be available for review by next week.

Of course, if the foundation — or some other comparable organization — cannot accept those financial and logistical management responsibilities, then it’s probably time to explore demolition.

For now, this is a step in the right direction. We are pleased to see the glimmer of a spirit of cooperation among the two bodies which, until now, have done little more than disagree.