City officials reaffirm desire for community center project
Doubling down on previous commitments to build a community center/YMCA project, Greencastle city officials agreed to move forward with the project during a joint session of the City Council and Redevelopment Commission Tuesday night.
After listening to representatives of its construction management firm, Tonn & Blank Construction, and the architects, Bona Vita Architecture, detail the proposed community center to be built on land the city has already acquired east of the Walmart Superstore off Indianapolis Road, the Council voted 5-1 to move ahead with the project, while the Redevelopment Commission (RDC) voted 3-0 toward that same end.
The Council vote was 5-1 with Mark Hammer, Adam Cohen, Stacie Langdon, Veronica Pejril and Dave Murray voting in favor of moving forward and adding a third gymnasium to the design as a alternate bid. Cody Eckert cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he was “wary about it (moving forward)” with the increase seen in construction costs. Councilman Jake Widner attended the meeting via Zoom, which according to a new state statute, makes him ineligible to vote.
On a motion by Gwen Morris, the RDC produced a unanimous result with Erika Gilmore and Lottie Barcus also in favor. RDC member Drew Brattain was absent. Like Widner, Gary Lemon attended via Zoom, making him ineligible to vote as an RDC member.
That didn’t prevent Lemon from wrapping up discussion on a high note.
“From my perspective, it’s either now or never,” Lemon said. “If we don’t do it now, it’s not going to happen in my lifetime.
“We’ve been talking about this, it seems, forever,” he continued. “This is the right thing. It will improve the community. There’s real momentum to get this thing done.”
Councilman Widner agreed.
“I do definitely think it’s a now-or-never situation,” he offered.
Mayor Bill Dory said he has been part of calls to local industry for support and has been “very excited” about the response. He pointed out that a presentation had been made to the Putnam County Community Foundation, which Wednesday night announced a half-million-dollar commitment to the project.
Councilman Eckert, however, said he remained “hesitant to go forward” at this time. He voiced concern over how the construction costs, estimated at $8 to $10 million 18 months ago could be more than $15 million today.
“I think we need to do this to make this a healthier community,” Councilor Stacie Langdon said, envisioning senior citizens actively using the facility for a Silver Sneakers program. “I don’t know how we can not do this,” she added. “We’ve been planning so long and saving so long.”
“It might not be the right time to reach out to do it,” Eckert responded.
Eckert also asked how many memberships would be necessary to make the project a success.
It would take 1,500-2,000 members with the monthly fee likely in the $50-60 range, Wabash Valley YMCA representative Ryan Penrod said.
“Our ‘Y’ feels very comfortable with that number,” Penrod added. “We have that in Brazil right now, and that’s with 26,000 (residents) in Clay County, while Putnam has what, 38,000?”
Mayor Dory noted that while Greencastle is making the community center an investment, it will be open for everyone in Putnam County to use the facilities.
A budget presented by Matt Hubbard and Scott Wells of Tonn & Blank puts the total project cost at $13,232,562 (which includes a $1 million contingency fee). That was without the third basketball space added to the east end of the building (estimated at $2,833,576), an option that produced the most discussion Tuesday night, leading to its inclusion as a bid alternate.
Councilman Murray asked what causes “that kind of increase” for including a third basketball court?
That third court, which would also provide a larger open space for community events, would also include increased space on the second-floor track area above it as well as additional HVAC needs.
“We’re building this for a 50- to 60-year run,” Councilman Cohen noted, advocating for the third court to provide more volleyball space and a prime spot for planned or community events.
Tom Salzer of Bona Vita Architects noted that “every ‘Y’ we’ve ever done wished they had that third court,” adding that it’s cheaper and easier to do it initially than coming back later to add another court.
With clubs and AAU teams often renting basketball space in such facilities, that third court also means potential additional revenue, it was noted.
The present configuration of the community center/wellness center shows 37,808 square feet with an additional 10,586 square feet for the third gym and about 11,000 square feet in the ground-floor center section for Putnam County Hospital to have facilities that are expected to include a prompt care center. That totals 59,394 square feet.
With the renewed commitment to the project, a new timetable emerged that begins with about 90 days of additional engineering and design, particularly in regard to the third gymnasium.
After that it will be turned over to Tonn & Blank to go out for bids to subcontractors and suppliers, about a six-week process.
“And you’re looking at a 12- to 14-month range for construction,” Salzer added.
That would put project completion sometime mid-year or later in 2023, Council President Hammer reasoned.