By GARY POPP
The Charlestown City Council met Monday and passed several ordinances to secure funding for the city’s Family Activity Center.
The center will include a roller skating rink, sprinkler pad, playground, miniature golf course, a large multipurpose building, concession area and the Charlestown Express, a kid-geared train with a route on the facility’s grounds.
During the meeting, officials passed a resolution to receive a $1.1 million loan from New Washington State Bank to put toward the FAC.
Council members previously transferred a $300,000 surplus from the 2012 budget into the city’s general fund.
During the meeting, council members passed an ordinance to take that $300,000 in the general fund and put it into the Youth and Family Activities Complex fund to be spent on the FAC’s skating rink construction, Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall explained.
Hall said the secured funding will fall $14,000 short of the bid accepted to complete the skating rink, so the generation of additional funding is required.
Council members also passed two ordinances to take $199,138 from the city’s capital trust fund to be spent on the FAC’s playground and sprinkler park equipment.
The equipment costs for the playground and sprinkler park totals nearly $366,000, Hall said, and this project will also require council members to find additional funding.
Hall said with the $1.6 million derived from the three sources, the city is on its way to fully funding the project’s early phases.
“It [$1.6 million] will allow us to get everything we want done, done, with the exception of the playground,” Hall said.
He said the combined funding, with $250,000 from the tax-increment financing district, will bring the city close to funding the roller skating rink, multipurpose building, sprinkle pad and playground.
Hall said the funding also covers a family-friendly train that will operate on the FAC grounds.
The train is currently being assembled and includes an old-fashioned-style locomotive made from an airport tug vehicle that will pull three passenger cars and a caboose.
Hall said the opening date for the FAC was scheduled for May 24, but the sprinkle pad equipment has caused some delay, and he now expects to have the center open about June 1.
Council members Dan James and Ruth Rawlings were the two dissenting votes on the resolution to take out the $1.1 million loan from New Washington State Bank.
James was also the only member to vote against each of the three ordinances passed during the meeting.
“I don’t have any problems with the project,” James said of the FAC. “I have a problem with how Bob Hall does things.”
He said Hall has initiated the project, which is currently being constructed, without securing the funding beforehand.
“The funding should have been in place before the project started,” James said. “The project is on the way and the funding is not there. It’s being done after the fact.”
While James said he doesn’t take issue with the FAC, he said the funding would be better spent elsewhere.
“We would be better spending our money on infrastructure, something the entire community benefits from, instead of 10 percent of the people [Charlestown residents] who will use the park,” James said.
Hall has said the FAC will serve as an amenity that will attract people and business to Charlestown.
For Hall, the FAC, and other initiatives, will serve the community for decades to come.
He has said children will develop a strong connection to the city through recreation, and in the future, they will want to raise their families in Charlestown.
He has also said as the east-end bridge is built and businesses continue to expand in the area, employees will be drawn to Charlestown by the FAC.
James thinks otherwise.
He said the people of Charlestown will benefit more if the city invests in its sewer systems, sidewalks and other infrastructures.
“Infrastructure attracts business, not a water park,” James said, adding that people are interested in jobs, something he feels is not offered by the FAC.
He said he is passionate about the people and welfare of Charlestown, but feels its leaders are leaving the city unprepared for the expansion opportunities that will be presented in the foreseeable future.
“I come from the place, if you are going to build a community, you put the infrastructure there and the jobs and the people will come,” James said. “If you want to bring people to Charlestown, you need to offer jobs.”