CIRCLEVILLE - Mayor Don McIlroy was cleared Tuesday to seek third-party proposals for the future use of the Everts Middle School gymnasium and adjacent industrial arts building.
City council authorized the action at a meeting of the Committee of the Whole with all council members except Barry Keller in attendance.
Council members agreed with city administration that the buildings should be used to benefit the community, and that the city cannot afford to undertake such a project alone.
Tuesday's discussion covered a variety of ideas for the future use of the site, ranging from a community recreation center to a conference and banquet facility, but all agreed it would come down to proposals received through the RFP process.
McIlroy said the RFP would request information including but not limited to how the buildings would be used; a description of the programs or activities that would be offered; how the proposed use would benefit the community; if activities would be available to the general public; hours of operation; a management plan; and a marketing and promotional plan.
Prior to the approval of issuing the RFP, Tom Spring, council member, gave a presentation detailing options for possibly funding a community center at the site. He said there were various uses that could translate into revenue, and it was important for the city to try to provide amenities for the community that has lost so much in recent years, including two bowling alleys, a skating rink, a swimming pool, a first-run movie theater, a teen center and at least six neighborhood parks.
Spring said it could be possible to gain funding for such a project through the State Capital Budget Bill next year, energy loans or a variety of grant programs. He also cited the success of the community's financial support for the construction of Mary Virginia Crites-Hannan Park on state Route 188.
"We should try to build on prior success," Spring said. "[About] $2.4 million was raised right here in Circleville for Hannan park. If this community can do that for Hannan park, why can't we do that for Everts?"
Spring suggested council should invite directors of other community recreation centers to speak about how they manage and pay for their facilities.
Mike Logan also spoke about the village of Williamsport's success with its old gymnasium that has been used as a community center for decades.
"We don't have to reinvent the wheel," he said. "We can learn from the experiences of some of our neighbors."
Todd Brady also suggested the possibility of taking a community recreation center to the voters in the form of levy support for the project.
In the end, council agreed to move ahead with issuing the RFP, having the mayor make a recommendation from the proposals received and then consider the proposal at that time.
The city is set to take possession of the Everts Middle School complex Aug. 17 from the Circleville City School district. The Woda Group Inc., a Westerville-based developer, will then take possession of the main school building for a senior housing project, but that sale likely will not close until April or May of 2016.
Additional discussion Tuesday centered on maintenance and other related issues for the property until the Woda sale is finalized and a use is found for the remaining buildings.
The Committee of the Whole also entered into executive session at the end of Tuesday's meeting for the purpose of discussing discipline of a city employee. No action was taken following executive session.