The city’s legislative body approved moving forward on an opportunity to purchase the former Centennial Elementary School property and make it part of the Wapakoneta park system.
Wapakoneta City Council members requested administrators craft legislation to authorize Safety-Service Director Bill Rains to negotiate a deal with Wapakoneta City School administrators for this “one-time opportunity” to purchase school grounds. Rains would have the authority to purchase 10 acres of Centennial Elementary School property at a cost not to exceed $90,000 and to purchase the Harmon Park ground now at a cost of $35,000 instead of financing it over a five-year period.
“I am going to urge everyone on this council to support this proposal and hopefully we can live up to the city’s side of the bargain because the soccer club and Breakfast Optimist Club have come forward to help with this purchase,” 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier said, prior to council voting 6-1 during Monday’s meeting to have legislation prepared.
Neumeier also contended the purchase of the land now clears up liability and insurance issues.
Councilor-at-large Wilbur Wells was the lone councilor to vote against proceeding with legislation because of worries about unanticipated expenses, especially if an occurrence happened at the Wapakoneta WaterPark, would strain the Wapakoneta Recreation Fund. Wells told the Wapakoneta Daily News he also would like to cap the amount of money that can be borrowed from another fund.
4th Ward Councilor Dan Graf expressed similar concerns as Wells but voted in favor of the legislation.
“I understand your concerns but if we had a catastrophic event at the parks which would require a large amount of money to fix we don’t have it now,” Neumeier said. “Both of you make good points and with additional land to take care of there are going to be additional expenses, but Jack (Recreation Director Jack Hayzlett) said he could manage that land with the same crew, same equipment with only needing money for additional man-hours and fuel.”
Rains, who helped develop a financial plan as directed by Neumeier to purchase the land, said he thought council is making a positive move for city residents.
“Council thinks it is a great idea and those kinds of properties are not going to come up for sale often,” Rains said. “I think it is in the community’s best interest that the city has the interest to renovate the land for a soccer facility, a playground and other recreational purposes.”
Rains said the ground may not be developed immediately and it will not be as nice as Veterans Memorial Park for years, but the ground would enhance the city’s park system.
Mayor Rodney Metz also favored moving toward reaching an agreement on the land.
“It is a one-time opportunity for the city,” Metz said. “There is no place else in the corporation limits that the city could purchase that size of ground (10 acres) that close to another park. I think it is a very wise choice by council to proceed in this direction.”
He also voiced concern with future budgets for the Recreation Department, but if an emergency presents itself then city leaders will have to make choices to best deal with the situation.
After reviewing financial numbers since last week’s Parks and Recreation Committee meeting, Neumeier explained to councilors the city’s Recreation Fund would not be as strained as previously thought. The total cost of the two properties could be $125,000, with the Wapakoneta Soccer Club contributing $40,000 and the Wapakoneta Breakfast Optimists contributing $20,000 toward the purchase of the Centennial property.
Neumeier said this leaves $65,000, which city councilors already approved spending $35,000 for the Harmon Park property, which extends from the gazebo to the drive east of the tennis courts and basketball court and includes two buildings.
This leaves the city needing $30,000, which is reduced further because $8,000 earned in interest was not appropriated during the budget process for 2011 and could be used in the purchase. Additional interest from the Hauss-Helms Fund totaling $11,000 is to be paid to the Recreation Fund in 2013, which could be used to pay back the Electric Expansion Fund, the fund which would loan the money to finance the project.
Neumeier calculated that leaves an obligation of approximately $11,000 that needs to be funded by 2015, which also could be covered with additional interest income by that time.
“Over a five year period, I don’t think it is a serious hit to the Recreation Fund and I think it can handle it,” said Neumeier, who originally distributed a spreadsheet that had the Recreation Fund providing $17,500 for three years and $12,500 in the fourth year to fund the project.