Spring Grove council mulls four options for 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.

Residents of Spring Grove will help the borough council decide whether or not to renovate, demolish or sell its community center — with some options projected to cost millions of dollars.

At the next borough council meeting — 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, at the borough office — the council will discuss results of a survey sent to residents and about 40 attendees of a special meeting Nov. 5, giving input on seven options highlighted for the center.

Four of them came out of a feasibility study initiated by the borough, according to a meeting presentation, which is available on the borough website.

Of those, Option 1 — the most expensive at about $3.14 million over a 20-year repayment plan with a 1.75 millage increase — would be to renovate and remodel the building in its entirety.

The other three options include a combination of renovating and demolishing three buildings that are part of the center.

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Option 3 — the least expensive at about $1.24 million with a millage increase of 0.75 (over a 20-year repayment plan) or 1.25 (over a 10-year repayment plan) — also includes subdividing and selling one building.

Repayment would come from the borough's general fund budget, and costs do not include annual rent income from the center, subdivision or any revenue from a potential sale.

Background: The fate of the Spring Grove Regional Parks & Recreation Center, at 50 N. East St., was first brought into question at a May 7 meeting in which many who used the center for programming voiced concerns over losing it. 

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Needed upkeep on the center, which is fully funded by resident tax dollars, made it too expensive for the borough to finance since also taking on the cost of utilities in 2018, unless there was a tax increase.

But for some, increasing taxes was not an option — and it's still a concern.

Borough manager Andrew Shaffer said there were some concerns from the public about the cost of a full renovation, which would put the average municipal tax bill at $901, according to the presentation.

Grant funding options are available, with the highest source — from the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program — awarding $125 million in grants per year, but it requires a 50 percent match.

A few additional suggestions to save costs were pitched by the council.

The borough could sell the entire property, a process that would cost about $3,500; or demolish the entire building for an estimated cost of $425,000, requiring a 0.25 millage increase equaling $56 annually over 10 years based on average assessed property value. 

Demolishing the building would also open the possibility for municipal parking.

To keep the center as is, the borough would need a 0.25 millage increase to maintain the building and address future deterioration.

All options were included in the survey, which reached at least 800 or 900 of the borough's 2,300 residents through the borough's Nixle text and email notification service, Shaffer said, as well as more than 700 who saw it posted on Facebook, plus any additional views from the borough's website.

"(Council members) are looking for what the residents want," he said, but "they know that something needs to be done."