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Jefferson County approves funding for community center

May 07, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Over the objection of one commissioner who wanted to know "who is being robbed" to pay for it, the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday voted to pay up to $2.2 million to build a new community center at Sam Michaels Park.

It was the second time a funding request for the center had been made.

As part of the commissioners' budget process, Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission officials in March requested the $2.2 million to build the community center.

The commissioners set aside $1.6 million for a comprehensive building program, which could cost about $18.5 million.

The community center project was included in that plan, but under one proposal, money would have to be saved for the building program for another five years.

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Parks and Recreation Commission Director Tim Barr met with the commissioners again Thursday regarding the community center project because the commissioners asked parks officials to reorganize their capital improvements plan, said Commissioner James G. Knode.

Parks and Recreation Commission officials have said the center is needed because they do not have an indoor facility for their programs. That means the commission must rent space for its classes.

And even then, some parents are forced to take their children to other nearby cities because of limited space for classes like gymnastics, Barr has said.

"There's a critical need already," said Commissioner Rusty Morgan, who voted along with Commissioner Greg Corliss and Commission President Al Hooper to set aside up to $2.2 million for the community center.

The proposal drew criticism from Commissioner Knode, who questioned what area was going to suffer loss of county funding due to the expenditure.

"I want to know who is being robbed," said Knode, who said he was under the assumption the money was being saved for more county office space.

Knode also criticized the commissioners for moving ahead on the proposal when there are few detailed building plans for it.

Knode said the commissioners already bought a "pig in a poke" when they decided last month to build a new Jefferson County Sheriff's office and 911 center beside the Jefferson County Health Department.

Knode voted against that plan, too.

"Now you're trying to do another one for $2.2 million," Knode said.

Although he voted for the center, Morgan expressed concern about the amount of money requested and said he hoped the center can be built for less.

Parks and Recreation Commission member Mike Jacobs said the center would be built in phases, which will allow county officials to closely monitor the building process and determine ways to keep costs down.

In March, officials said the center will be 16,940 square feet and include a gym and bleacher seating for about 750 people.

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