STAUNTON -- After taking up considerable time at various town-sponsored meetings, the Staunton Town Council held a public hearing Wednesday to discuss the continued construction plans of a community center.
However, due to seasonally hazardous weather, public turnout was low, as there was nothing to distinguish the "special" meeting from the monthly gatherings held at the Town Hall.
Not a single attendee at the Town Hall wasn't a member of either the Town Council or the Community Center Steering Committee. Steering Committee Chairman Matthew Reed was understanding of the low turnout, but was still disappointed public opinion wasn't heard at the meeting.
"I'm disappointed there weren't more people here," Reed said. "I'm sure (the weather) had an impact, but it's still a disappointment."
The planning for the building, which is currently slated to be erected at 101 N. Monroe St., has been going through vigorous revamping since it was originally denied a Community Focus Fund Grant last spring.
Dan Sanders, architect from Sanders and Associates in Terre Haute, presented a preliminary drawing for the building. It was scaled down to approximately 2,600 sq. ft.
The original plans had the building at around 6,600 sq. ft. The new building is expected to hold between 50-80 people, while the old design was to hold 200. The board agreed that it would be rare that the building would hold functions of that size and it would be wasteful to make a building to accommodate for events they weren't holding.
It was agreed at the meeting that in order to accommodate for parking at the center, Souder Power Wash out, Staunton, would demolish the current Town Hall so as to create necessary spaces. Reed said Clerk Treasurer Kathy Mienheartt was the only person to have an office within the building and that an office would be set up for her in the Community Center if it is built.
Reed said he thought the planning process was moving in a positive direction but there were still too many generalities, in particular regarding the cost, that needed to be straightened out. The maximum allotment for construction is $500,000. Sander's design is slated to run at about $400,000. Reed said there were potential fees that had not been specified that could push the overall cost above what they are allowed to spend. He said he hoped to get these problems situated by the next Stauton Town Council meeting, which is slated for Feb. 8.
While the cost could be a potential problem, there is still no guarantee the Committee will receive the grant. Board President Andy Kirchner expressed his skepticism, proclaiming he would see an end to the project if the grant was rejected.
"I'd like to see it (get constructed)" Kirchner said. "But if this fails, we're moving on. There are more important projects."
One of the projects Kirchner discussed was the construction of an upgraded storm drainage system in Staunton. Reed acknowledged there were other town issues that needed to be tackled, but disagreed with Kirchner's assertion that the project should be shut down if the grant wasn't received.
"(Kirchner) makes a valid point," Reed said. "But if it's a good project today, it will be a good project in eight months. I wouldn't just kill it."
The final grant proposal is due by March 13. If it goes through, the bidding process is set to begin in May. An issue was raised about the time when actual construction would begin. If all went smoothly, Reed said he thought the process could begin in October. Architect Sanders, as well as others in attendance, were skeptical about starting construction at this time, saying running into the winter months could lead to an exceedingly difficult construction process.
Sanders said that if it began in April, they would actually be able to make up more time as they would be able to accomplish a great deal more not dealing with seasonal factors like snow and rock-hard dirt. He estimated it could be a six month process if started in April, as opposed to a nine month process if started in November. Reed said that he thought it was possible to construct in the winter due to Indiana's fickle weather patterns, but wasn't exactly sure if it could be done.
Prior to the Grant deadline, the town must hold one more public hearing. No specific date has been set, but the board said they hoped to conduct it in either late February to early March. Grant Administrator Shannon McLeod said the board would promote the hearing by sending out flyers and posting information at agencies such as the post office. Knowing they were entering the final stretch, McLeod urged all attendees to make sure they did everything within their power to make sure the process comes to a successful end.
"We've got a good start here, but there's still a ways to go," McLeod said. "Let's start shaking the bushes to see what we can come up with."