Thursday, October 7, 2004

Community center costs worry trustees

West Chester officials may search for cheaper way

By John Kiesewetter
Enquirer staff writer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - A smaller, cheaper community center could be offered to township voters before a referendum vote set for more than a year from now.

Trustees President Catherine Stoker has proposed rescinding a July resolution to build a $33 million center and searching for a more affordable alternative. If trustees agree to a scaled-down facility, it would be presented to voters for approval - possibly as early as March, Stoker said.

Trustees have expressed concern about increased costs for the Union Centre facility, since construction would be delayed two years by the November 2005 referendum. A citizens group collected more than 2,000 signatures last summer to place it on the ballot.

Trustees George Lang and Jose Alvarez said Wednesday they would be willing to consider alternatives to the stalled 172,000-square-foot facility with two indoor pools, an outdoor pool, indoor field turf, gymnasium, fitness center and meeting rooms.

Citing increased costs for steel and other materials, Stoker said she "is not sure we could afford to build what we wanted to build in July."

The township also has lost its preferred site. Developers plan to sell or build on the 18 acres at Union Centre Boulevard and West Chester Road, across from Lakota West High School, said David Gully, township administrator.

Bruce Jones, a resident who circulated referendum petitions, said community center opponents may challenge the trustees, if they rescind the July resolution approving construction.

"We've already certified this to the ballot in November '05. She can't circumvent that with some new idea," Jones said.

But Gully said having residents vote on a community center the township couldn't afford "would be unconscionable. It would have no bearing on what we could do."



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