Questions about a proposed $24.7 million community center in Fairmont were abundant during an informational “town hall” meeting Wednesday at the Fairmont Opera House.
The biggest issues presented during the question-and-answer session involved plans for the community center, such as the fitness area and the banquet area, competing with existing local businesses; and how to cover the cost of construction and ongoing operations, estimated to be $530,000 annually.
Negotiations with the YMCA are underway to have that organization manage the center. If an agreement is reached, the “Y” will coordinate with city staff to determine what programs would be offered.
Several people asked questions and offered opposing and supportive comments about the project. One of those people would like to see a space for curling be a part of the proposed center .
Former city councilman Andy Lucas drew applause after his statement. He said it took eight years of planning and fundraising before the Knights of Columbus Hall was built on 10th Street. The all-volunteer staff that operates the hall enables the Knights to donate $70,000 per year to local non-profits. Property taxes on the building run about $1,000 per month.
He questioned why the decision to offer millions of taxpayer dollars would rest on a majority vote of only three city council members instead of offering the citizens a chance to vote on the community center project.
On the other side of the issue, several people advocated taking a chance on the facility, citing it as an opportunity for Fairmont to grow and attract younger residents.