Sunday, June 30, 2002

Forest Park considers community center tax

Council may vote Monday to put measure on ballot

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FOREST PARK — Is there interest in a $13 million community center that would have pools, gyms, a day-care center and crafts room? Definitely. Survey results say so.

        Does the latest task force chartered to look into the matter have a possible locale for this new first-class facility? Yep. Try Central or Kemper Meadow Park.

        But are residents willing to finance building costs? Council could put them to the test.

        On Monday, members decide whether an earnings tax increase of 1 percent to 1.35 percent will appear on the November ballot so that the city can finally have a community center.

        The tax increase would generate about $2.2 million a year, which the city would use to pay the center's bond debt and operation costs.

        Approval Monday would break a 30-year standstill. The city has formed task forces, drawn up plans and talked about the new community center. But this is the first time they are poised to let voters decide.

        “For the first time, we've been able to put together a viable plan that has everything that council needs to take action (and) we have a council that recognizes that there really is a need and desire by the citizens to have a community center,” said Don Speir. He was appointed to the community center task force last year.

        A 1999 city-financed survey indicated that 68 percent of the 19,000 residents here want a community center and would use it. Almost 40 percent said they'd like to see it financed by a combination of earnings taxes and membership fees.

        Evendale and Sharonville have financed community centers similarly, said Ray Hodges, Forest Park's city manager. He will recommend approval at Monday's session, which begins at 8 p.m. at City Hall, 1201 W. Kemper Road.

        “Letting voters decide ... That's the democratic process,” he said. “We know from past studies that the majority of residents favor a community center. The question is whether residents want a community center (where) they're willing to pay the cost of the building.”

        Councilman David Lives knows how he'll vote.

        “I'm for putting it on the ballot,” he said. “Let's turn it to the voters.”


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