Spring Grove divided over fate of community center

The borough of Spring Grove can no longer afford to pay maintenance costs for the former Spring Grove Area Intermediate School building being used for the area community center, at 50 N. East St. The borough council held a meeting Monday, May 7, to gather input from residents.

Some area residents are torn over whether to invest in maintenance costs to keep the Spring Grove Regional Parks & Recreational Center.

The center, an old school building at 50 N. East St., is fully funded by borough residents' tax dollars, and should the community agree to needed repairs, taxes would likely increase substantially, said borough council Vice President Rebecca Stauffer at a May 7 meeting.

So the borough is seeking input from its residents: Do they want to invest in the center for a potential tax increase, or do they want to explore other options?

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Costs: Yearly repairs cost an average of about $15,000 per year, not including labor expenses, and the building might need additional repairs.

Just based on observation, Stauffer said, it needs repairs to exterior brick, crumbling corners, damaged and energy-inefficient windows, as well as electric upgrades and continued asbestos abatement.

But to find out actual costs, the borough would need to do a $25,000 assessment.

Depending on the results, residents would have to decide whether they'd be willing to foot the bill for the repairs or consider options such as selling the building, demolishing it or leasing part of it for other uses.

Community: Residents from Spring Grove and other nearby municipalities that rent the center were concerned over a potential loss of programming.

John Dickert, chairman of the center's board, listed the numerous programs and activities held at the community center each week.

"This building overall puts so much there for the youth in the community that I'm really not sure of any other space in Spring Grove that could house all this does," said Jackson Township resident and Spring Grove Little League renter Jessica Runk.

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In a letter read at the meeting, Ed Short — lead pastor at Crosspointe Community Church — said hundreds of families use the center on a regular basis, and the church meets there.

Ministry coordinator Amy Steele said more than half of parishioners are not residents.

In his letter, Short asked why the $15,000 wasn't more than covered by the renters, when the three biggest payers alone — Crosspointe, Extravadance and the child care center — pay $48,000 annually.

No money: To that, council President James Graham said the rent did not even go to the borough until 2018. Before then, it was paid to the center's recreation group, which also covered the cost of utilities.

Though the community center has many renters from outside the borough as well, it is borough residents who are solely responsible for covering maintenance costs.

And since the borough also took on the cost of utilities in 2018, the rent is not enough to offset both those costs and maintenance.

At least one resident suggested those who live in surrounding townships could help cover the costs.

"I would be very willing to pay," Runk said.

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Taxes: Some, such as 17-year borough resident Harriet Geesey, agreed that the borough should not raise taxes.

Other suggestions made by area residents were selling to a private company, keeping part of the center and adding municipal parking or investing in a new building that would have fewer environmental and maintenance concerns.

Steele warned that though maintaining the building could be expensive, costs associated with demolishing the building could also go well beyond the $25,000 assessment.

"There is no prevailing desire to displace the programs currently using the building," Stauffer said, reminding those attending that the purpose of the meeting was to seek input. 

Borough manager Andrew Shaffer said the issue will be revisited within the next couple of months at regularly scheduled meetings.