Thursday, June 10, 2004

Community center opposed

Petitions planned if West Chester seeks bids to build

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - Opponents of the proposed $33 million Union Centre community and recreation center are planning a petition effort seeking a referendum.

"Taxpayers have a right to decide whether they want it or not," said John Janszen, co-owner of FitWorks health clubs.

Janszen and partner Randy Stanifer, a township resident, have asked a Columbus attorney specializing in election law to help them prepare referendum petitions.

Trustees said this week they will vote June 22 on whether to construct the two-story, 151,380- square-foot facility at Union Centre Boulevard and West Chester Road, opposite Lakota West High School.

If trustees then approve a second and final reading July 13, as scheduled, Janszen said he will begin collecting signatures July 14. Janszen and Stanifer unsuccessfully sought a referendum on a trustees' community center decision last year, but missed a deadline.

To place the issue on the Nov. 2 ballot, the group must gather 1,577 signatures of registered township voters by Aug. 12.

"I strongly believe it will be on the ballot in November. I'm confident they'll get the signatures," said Trustee George Lang, who had campaigned for office last year by saying residents should vote on the center.

Lang was disappointed to learn Tuesday from Township Attorney Donald Crain that if trustees put the issue on the November ballot themselves, it could be challenged by a referendum.

"We could end up adding another year or 18 months, and increase costs by 4 to 8 percent," said Catherine Stoker, trustees president.

Lang said the referendum process would "energize opponents of the center." But Bruce Jones, a township resident against the center, said a vote also could generate support and potential memberships for the facility.

Lang said he will talk to YMCA officers and others as part of his quest to contract out the center's operation.

"The big question is: Who can run it at the lowest cost?' " said David Gully, township administrator.

Voting to give Gully authority to advertise for construction bids when drawings are done, or seek management proposals, doesn't mean the center will be built, Lang said. "We can always vote later to delay it or stop it, but at least we'll have the ball rolling," he said.

The center would have an indoor leisure pool with slides, an indoor competitive pool and grandstand, sauna, whirlpool, two basketball and two racquetball courts, a field-turf multipurpose room, fitness and aerobics areas, jogging track, party rooms, art rooms, meeting rooms and a senior center. A 20,135-square-foot outdoor pool would be attached.


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