A timeline has not been set, but the capital campaign to fund creation of a Crawford County recreation center has passed the halfway point.
Lincoln Trail College President Ryan Gower updated the Robinson City Council on the project Tuesday.
According to Gower, a conversation with the Marathon Petroleum plant manager revealed recruiting young employees has been difficult for the refinery. Crawford Memorial Hospital employees said the same thing.
Gower, who moved here from Champaign a few years ago, turned to leaders of United Way of Crawford County to look into the cause. They discussed with local residents what changes which would benefit the community.
One general theme was evident: the lack of a facility where people could socialize.
"According to them, there is lack of a place to go to socialize, to build relationships and an overall sense of lack of things to do in Crawford County," Gower said.
With that in mind, the group set to out to create a grassroots economic development to make the area more appealing.
Members visited communities throughout the area in Illinois and Indiana, and discovered that those with a YMCA-type facility seemed able to accommodate that need.
"The idea seemed ambitious but doable so we started a capital campaign," Gower said.
The new rec center is expected to be built on the LTC campus. Gower described it as a roughly 35,000-square-foot facility, complete with an elevated track, multi-purpose activity rooms for martial arts and other classes and an indoor court and a half. It will incorporate the existing LTC pool rather than building a new one.
That part of the proposal raised some eyebrows because of its cost. Gower said it would be an expensive feature and the center would probably lose six figures a year in operation of a new pool. However, not having a pool could have cost the county the entire facility. The LTC location was selected because it meant the facility could take advantage of the existing pool.
Further conversations with rec center employees showed that a rec center would need a water feature of some kind.
"I was told a water feature is essential for a rec center's success," Gower said.
The total cost for the new center is expected to be $6 million. Thus far the group has raised a little more than $3 million.
Alderman Gene Sinclair asked Gower if he envisioned similar facilities such as the one at Marathon continuing. Gower said after speaking with Marathon representatives that it seemed they might be open to possibly closing, or changing the use of their facility, if the rec center was developed and successful.
Gower also pointed out he understands that the Depot fitness center on South Cross can get crowded when the college's athletes come in for conditioning workouts. He said there is another idea in mind to possibly build a Depot-like facility for the athletes at the new Statesman Park. LTC students can still be members at the Depot, as the new facility would only be for team workouts.
In the first order of items acted on, the council approved a payment to Bob Treese, the artist painting the mural at the South Cross mini park.
Parks and Recreation Superintendent Mike Shimer said Treese is technically finished with just a few minor details to work on. The council agreed to pay him $11,500 from the downtown TIF fund.
A sewer camera and locating wand were approved for purchase. Superintendent of Public Works Lawrence Quick said the camera would cost $10,806 and the wand $2,650 from Schulte Supply, Edwardsville. The department had budgeted $14,000 for the items.
An ordinance prohibiting cannabis establishments has been drafted. However, the city decided Tuesday to hear public opinion before taking action. Alderman Jim McKinney said not much information has been received on dispensaries here.
A public hearing on the matter is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Robinson Community Center.
In other business, the council agreed to advertise for bids for street maintenance. Applications for resurfacing will be due at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 23, while applications for sealing will be due at 10:15 a.m.
Aldermen also agreed to advertise for bids for new front doors at the community center, which will be due by 3:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22.
The council also approved an ordinance amendment for street excavations, partial payments for demolition of the old Allen Sanitarium at 605 S. Cross and the employment of three part-time street department workers, pending drug screenings.