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Township officials urge residents to discuss rec center future

The Washington Twp. Recreation Department is working with consultants to develop a strategic plan that will help guide and plan for the future of recreation programming for Centerville/Washington Twp. residents.
The Washington Twp. Recreation Department is working with consultants to develop a strategic plan that will help guide and plan for the future of recreation programming for Centerville/Washington Twp. residents.

Centerville and Washington Twp. residents are being asked what they want in terms of programming at the Washington Twp. Recreation Department, as community members have joined the discussion to help develop a strategic plan to help guide the future of the rec center.

Township officials conducted four focus groups and a public open house last year designed to garner feedback to help gauge what residents want in future programming.

These discussions are a great place to express ideas because the information collected will be used to help develop a new strategic plan for recreation services, according to Recreation Director Mark Metzger.

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“We want to hear from everyone, but we particularly want to hear from individuals who do not currently use our programs,” Metzger said. “The focus groups were very well attended, and the public open house was made up of mostly seniors. In terms of those conversations we talked about how to prioritize the use of existing tax dollars from buildings to programming to staffing.”

The Washington Twp. Recreation Department is working with Berry-Dunn consultants on the strategic plan.

“Right now, we are kind of in that quiet middle phase, where the consultants have kind of gone away and are doing what they do best, which is analyzing all of the things that they have found out and discussed,” Metzger said.

Officials have now put together a survey that will go out to residents later this month as a follow-up discussion in order to gain more insight.

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“We have a community of about 56,000 folks here in Centerville and Washington Twp., and a representative sampling of those folks will receive a mailed hard copy of the survey that they can complete and mail back or a link they can go on and complete the survey,” Metzger said. “That is the next big project that is coming out in the next month or two.”

He said the challenge in executing a successful public recreation program is that you are trying to find activities that serve everybody, and that isn’t an easy task.

“Your trying to find something for everybody as best you can,” Metzger said. “What we want to know is how do you think we are doing and are we meeting the expectations of what you want us to be?”

He said the recreation department provides a broad range of services — ranging from sports and fitness to the arts and special events — for people of all ages, including people of varying abilities.

The facilities that operate under the umbrella of the Recreation Department is vast. The main Rec Center located on Route 725, the former YMCA, has a pool and water slides, two gymnasiums, climbing wall, walking track and fitness center.

“Behind that is our 26-acre park, which was gifted to the township by Tom Stolz, and in that park is where we do Woodland Lights and a lot of our outdoor programs,” Metzger said. “Tom’s old house is back there and we use that for programming as well - for arts classes and things like that.”

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Rec West, which houses both youth care and the Enrichment Center, is the former Centerville Cinemas building. The last piece of the puzzle is the Town Hall Theatre, which is in downtown Centerville, but is owned by the township and run by the Recreation Dept.

“We do youth performances and classes there. We also rent the facility out for events,” Metzger said.

Dale Berry, president of the Washington Twp. Board of Trustees, said it is important to engage the community.

“Involving the community in a conversation about how their recreation center can best serve them is vitally important,” Berry said.

Community members have shown support for recreation services in the township as voters in May of 2018 passed Issue 16, a five-year recreation replacement levy that increased the millage from 0.7 to 1 mill.

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The levy will generate about $640,800 per year in additional revenue, while providing about $1.84 million in the first year, according to township officials. Voters approved the original levy in 1988.

The additional revenue will help the township expand services to senior citizens at the Rec West Enrichment Center, according to township officials.

Officials say senior programming cost $185,000 in 2017, but the current tax millage was established before the township began providing services at Rec West when the township was tasked with adding services after the Hithergreen Center closed.

“It is hard to provide the perfect service for every type of programming,” Metzger said. “But we want to find out what people want us to prioritize in terms of programming so we can figure out a way to use limited tax dollars wisely.”

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