Pendleton considers new community center

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PENDLETON — The Town of Pendleton could have a new community center in Falls Park as early as next summer, and even as the town council made it clear many variables and unknowns exist, it took steps to get the ball rolling.

“I think it’s a project that could make a major impact on the community, and I’m 100 percent for it,” Councilman Chad Wolf said during the main discussion point of the Pendleton Town Council meeting Thursday, May 11.

The council approved rolling over existing town bonding capacity being used for payments on the Pendleton Fire Station to be used in the future for a community center.

It also approved using up to $5,000 from the town’s Rainy Day fund to get started studying the project. That money would be used to hire an architect to draw up preliminary designs and for gathering community input, such as through surveys, to see if there’s community support for the idea.

The fire station will be paid off soon, and those bond payments — which total about $112,000 per year — could be redirected to paying off a bond for community center without raising taxes, council members said.

But council members said those payments — which alone would support the construction of a $1.1 million to $1.3 million building — isn’t the only possible source of funding for the project.

They said there will be discussions to see if the Pendleton Fall Creek Park District is interested in building a community center, which could add additional borrowing capacity.

And then there’s an unnamed “medical facility,” town council President Bob Jones said, that is considering joining in the effort, which would provide a boost to the project.

“That would definitely make a difference in what we have the capacity to build,” Jones said.

“There’s a sponsorship opportunity there that we definitely need to explore,” Wolf said.

Council members said they have been considering the community center idea for about a year, and that they’ve visited several facilities in central Indiana, including ones in new Castle and Kokomo.

They said a community center has the potential to enrich life in the community for people of all ages through a variety of activities and programming.

A community center could also be of particular value to youths, providing them with a safe place to go and positive things to do, council members said.

The one town council member who voted against the resolution to roll over the bonding capacity, said after the meeting his vote wasn’t against such a project: “A million dollars isn’t enough money,” Councilman Mike Romack said.

Romack said there might be a better use for that sum of money.

“If you’re going to put a community center up here, you’ve got to put a nice community center up,” Romack said.

After the board approved the two community center-related resolutions, Jones said: “There will be a lot more discussion on this project.”

In other business:

• Council voted to rezone the property at 600 Water St. (just east of the Pendleton Community Public Library) from planned business to residential. Square One Company from Wilkinson bought the property — which includes a vacant building — to turn into apartments units. The 12 units would be 1,100 square feet each in size and rent for about $1,100 per month.

• Planning and Zoning Coordinator Rachel Christenson spoke about the recently completed town Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The document, paid for using a $20,000 grant from the state and $20,000 in matching town funds, outlines community amenities and resources, community interest in being a walkable and rideable community, and more. The plan will be used to help ensure future projects consider adding amenities such as bike lanes or wider sidewalks and paths, especially when the Indiana Department of Transportation is involved, Christenson said. “If we don’t have a plan like this in place, then INDOT won’t even consider it.”

• Town leaders discussed Marsh grocery store, which recently filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “We can’t not have a grocery store in town,” Councilwoman Jessica Smith said. Councilman Wolf said, “We’re going to come up with a plan … it’s definitely on the forefront of our radar. You can be proactive; we’re not just waiting.” However, he added, it “doesn’t mean we can do anything, necessarily.” Council members said because it appears the local store does good business, that it would look attractive to keep open by a potential buyer of Marsh or another grocery store operator.