Friday, August 27, 2004

Rec center plans revised

Deerfield would build it,
recoup cost in lease deal

By Erica Solvig
Enquirer staff writer

DEERFIELD TWP. - Their planned partnership with neighboring Symmes Township gone, trustees today will discuss a revised deal with the Ralph J. Stolle Countryside YMCA to build a recreation center.

Trustees could vote on a revised letter of intent that proposes doubling the amount Countryside contributes to the $10 million-to-$11 million project. If trustees agree, the deal would go back to Countryside's board for approval and possibly more negotiation.

. Countryside's original letter had included Symmes Township's participation. But Symmes was cut out in June after Countryside officials expressed concerns that the Hamilton County township might not pass the levy needed.

Under the new proposal, Deerfield would fund construction of the 80,000-square-foot recreation center on township-owned land off Montgomery Road, though township officials have talked about capping the cost at $10 million. Upwards of $6.5 million of that amount may be borrowed with the rest coming from other funds, officials said.

The township would own the building and lease it to Countryside, using the payments to pay off the borrowed amount. The proposed agreement offers Countryside a $10 million lease paid over 20 years - double the $5 million lease initially discussed - and lets the YMCA manage the center.

"We certainly have a lot of borrowing capacity, but we're not getting anywhere near what would be an aggressive level," Trustee Barbara Wilkens Reed said. "It's nothing but conservative. Everything is falling into place as far as I'm concerned. It's an investment in the community. It does nothing but enhance the community."

Steve Boland, executive director of Countryside YMCA in Lebanon, said he could not comment until he had received something in writing from Deerfield.

"It's a process that they have to go through," Boland said. "At this point, the ball is in their court."

In May, when Symmes was still involved, Deerfield trustees had voted 2-1 for a modified version of Countryside's initial proposal.

Trustee Lee Speidel had wanted the YMCA to pay at least $8 million into the deal before considering the partnership. On Thursday, Speidel said he still wasn't completely happy with the latest proposal.

"I'm hearing more and more that people have no objections to a YMCA coming. They just don't see why the taxpayers have to pay for it," he said.


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