STAUNTON -- A relatively calm meeting about the construction of a community center in Staunton turned hectic as complaints were issued at the end of Tuesday's meeting.
After a motion was signed to allow for the finalized Community Center plans to be sent out, Staunton residents Shaun Maesch and John Yocum raised issues that elevated the mood of the room from calm to outright heated.
The issue raised by the private citizens had to do with where the center should be on the town's priority list and if its construction would benefit local business.
While neither man completely denounced the Community Center project, they both stated they felt the town had bigger concerns, most notably the construction of a storm drainage system, to fend off a string of flooding that has plagued residents in recent years.
Shannon McLeod, an independent grant writer from Priority Project Resources, who has been working with the town on the project for more than a year, said the goal of the town was to attempt to get the center built while simultaneously working on a drainage system, which she and council members all stated was in the works.
The fireworks truly started to fly when Maesch, who runs a lawn care service in Staunton, expressed concern the construction of the center would go to out-of-state contractors and put an even greater strain on the fledgling local economy. He was not only concerned with the financial aspect, but also made claims the center's construction would suffer.
"It's going to be cheaper, but you're going to get (poor) craftsmanship," Maesch said.
He added he was afraid outside workers would bring in non-green card workers.
McLeod said she agreed that getting local construction should be a top priority but it was out of her hands. Maesch responded, saying she was "taking the easy way out" with her answer.
Town board members explained to Maesch the scope of the project, which is estimated to cost approximately $504,300 is too small to attract out-of-state contractors, whose travel expenses would exceed their overall gain. Maesch, however, expressed great concern that outside forces would use "shady dealings" to get what they wanted.
Town Board president Andy Kirchner quickly put a nix on the plan.
"I like this town, but I don't want to go to jail for it," Kirchner said.
McLeod said she spoke with both Maesch and Yocum after the meeting and felt they were better able to communicate in a less hostile setting.
She even went as far as to give them the phone number of the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, so they could give the residents a first-hand description of how the process was going to work.
"Obviously when you do a community project, you can't please 100 percent of the citizens," McLeod said. "I think with a little education and a calmer approach, you can find middle ground."
Not all members of the Community Center Steering Committee shared McLeod's calm outlook on the proceedings and expressed their displeasure during the meeting. Most notably over the delayed nature of their complaints.
"It's easy to come and complain at the last meeting," Town Board member Brad Webster said. "Where have you been at all the other ones? You're all talk."
Despite the ruckus, the motion to approve the sending of the grant was signed and will take place before the deadline Friday. The committee said they expected to hear back in mid-May whether they would get funding or not. McLeod said it was an "all or nothing" situation and if they didn't receive it now, more adjustments would be made shortly thereafter.
New suggestions were made for center uses, including loaning it out for Ivy Tech courses and a celebrity auction, where the town would contact celebrities and have them send in memorabilia to be auctioned off.
The overall cost of the building to the town was expected to be $87,400. McLeod said the payment would be made "cash in hand" and the town wouldn't have to borrow the money needed for its share of the funding.
Despite the objections, McLeod and the rest of the steering committee saw the need to press forward saying this would prove to be an integral part of the community for a long time to come.
"I think this could be the catalyst to bringing back your downtown," McLeod said. "Hopefully, it will spark some initiative and bring back to the community that pride and spirit."