Shelby sends out feelers with town hall meetings

Public input sought for Community Center solution

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 8, 2016


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — On March 2, the Shelby Township Community Center Advisory Board hosted two town hall meetings — at the senior center and library — to collect information that could help find a solution to the overcrowding at the Community Center.

Township Trustee Doug Wozniak said the committee’s current recommendation is to expand the building for the sole use of the court and move the library, senior center, cable TV offices, and parks and recreation to the vacant 50,000-square-foot Ewell Elementary building at 23 Mile and Shelby roads.

The existing Community Center building is approximately 26,500 square feet.

“There are no formal proposals on the table at all,” Wozniak said. “We are taking any and all suggestions.”

The town hall meetings featured an open house format in which residents could visit four tables representing the library, parks and recreation, engineering, and the senior center to ask questions and offer input.

Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said the advisory board would take all of the information collected from the town hall meetings, phone calls, social media, emails and conversations and come up with a presentation for the Board of Trustees.

The advisory board consists of Wozniak; Trustee Paula Filar; engineer Fazal Khan; engineer Carol Thurber; Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Director Joe Youngblood; and Department of Public Works Director David Miller.

Khan said he had looked into possible Community Center solutions for years, and repurposing the former elementary school was the best solution he had seen yet.

Stathakis said the Utica Community Schools Board of Education had expressed an interest in selling the school to the township if the township wished to buy it. He added that the student population in that area is projected to decrease.

Catherine Schmidt, the assistant library director, and Amy Drake, the senior center director, agreed that they would be able to do a lot of things they haven’t been able to do before because they simply don’t have the space.

“Everyone is nervous about change, but I think, first and foremost, they are excited about what might come,” Drake said.

Preliminary estimates show that the library and senior center, if relocated to Ewell Elementary, would double in size. The Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Department would also utilize the gymnasium for sports leagues and bring back basketball leagues.

“Our biggest thing is we haven’t had a gym for so many years. Having a gymnasium, we could expand our programming tenfold,” Youngblood said. “During the day, seniors could have pickleball and senior sports leagues.”

Filar said utilizing Ewell Elementary School is attractive to the advisory board because Shelby Township likely would be able to do it without a millage to raise taxes, or loans.

Khan said there was not yet a cost attached to the project, but that the township likely would fund it, if approved, out of the general fund.

If approved by the Board of Trustees and then the school board, Khan said the township would have 90 days to figure out whether to move forward with Ewell Elementary or back off.

“The board has already been behind closed doors. I can’t tell you what we talked about,” Stathakis told C & G Newspapers. “We’re not going into anything until we figure out what things cost.”

Donna Murphy, a Shelby Township resident since 1965, said she felt like the meetings were useless and that she does not trust the Board of Trustees’ dealings behind closed doors.

“They will do what they’re going to do,” she said. “It’s a shame.”

For more information or to submit input, call the Supervisor’s Office at (586) 731-5154.