Council OKs ballot item for center

Goshen City Council allows a referendum on May's ballot to see if residents are willing to pay for a proposed community center.

Posted on Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — The city council voted in favor of allowing a referendum for the proposed Goshen Community Center to appear on a special election ballot in May at its meeting Tuesday night.

Nearly 40 residents of the community spoke to the council, some advising them to strike down the chance of a referendum and others asking them to allow citizens to make the decision.

While most agreed Goshen Community Schools need to update and improve its pool facilities, many said they did not think the entire community center was economically viable or necessary. Concerns about tax implications and financial sustainability arose from many of the speakers.

Many also voiced worries about the impact on local private businesses — namely gyms and fitness centers — and believed the community center would be in direct competition with the private establishments.

“I think anybody in this room would like to have a community center,” said resident Terry Snyder. “But the bottom line is can we afford it?”

Proponents of the referendum said they may not even vote in favor of the community center when the special election occurs in May, but asked that the council allow the people to make that decision on their own terms as more information comes forth and people are able to better understand the impact the center would have on the community.

“I’m a little confused as well,” noted another resident, Paul Steury. “But ... I’m here just because I’m a believer in the public voice and that’s the reason why I think we should have a referendum.”

In the end, council approved the referendum by a tight 4-3 vote, acknowledging their own reservations and concerns about the project.

Over the next several months, Goshen Community Center Inc., the group behind the project, will continue to hone its proposal in the hopes of showing the project’s feasibility.

Bruce Stahly, the project’s director, said he’s been meeting with financial groups to make sure the community center’s business plan is accurate.

The Goshen Community School board will hold a decision-making hearing on Jan. 28 to decide whether or not to allow for their own referendum to appear on the ballot.

The referendum will appear on the special election ballot, which will be voted on May 7. After that, the council will still have the opportunity to make a motion or propose a resolution to revoke the authorization to proceed to issue the bonds or enter into a lease for the project.

More information on the proposed community center can be found on the center’s website, goshencommunitycenter.com.

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