Newton Falls considers ownership of historic community center
The Newton Falls community is rallying around a nonprofit group working to restore a historic community center.
Thursday, May 4th 2023, 12:05 AM EDT
The Newton Falls community is rallying around a non-profit group working to restore a historic community center.
A council motion to take back this community center which was once a United Service Organization (USO) during World War II didn't sit well with people in the city.
Some folks came out verbally swinging and reminded City Council that the treasured community center is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and that work was done by the nonprofit group.
More than one person reminded the council that the community center in the city's hands fell into disrepair to the point of possibly being demolished.
"That community center, it rotted into the ground before Connie [Smith] started on it, and if would have gone any longer it wouldn't have been salvageable. We've got a plan in place, we swam halfway across the river now, we can't say it's too far we got to swim back. We're halfway across the river, let her keep going with this. Let her finish it up. There are too many other problems we're dealing with on council," David Hanson said.
He suggested the city doesn't need more legal issues in courts.
"Why didn't you just make a phone call and discuss this? Instead, you throw a fire bomb in their laps, then wonder why everyone's mad. Quit doing things wrong. Just try to do things right," Brian Axiotas added.
Councilman Gideon Fetterolff explained he just wants the city to take back what belongs to the community and emphasized the city can help the nonprofit get grants for the project.
Councilman Feterolff criticized the lack of progress. But did acknowledge that COVID-19 did slow things down.
He wanted an update on progress and fundraising and timetables for repairs and rehabilitation.
"Let's try and get this back into the city's name," Feterolff said.
But others point out this would be an empty field had the non-profit group not taken over and did work to save the building and get it to this point where it can be rehabilitated now.
"You have a group working to save it. It's a huge amount of money. It's a huge effort that will eventually benefit the community. The city can't afford to put a roof on it. We can't afford repairs on it. It costs $18,000 just to keep it upright with utilities on. Newton Falls doesn't have enough money. We don't have a police department," John Richards emphasized.
The community defended the volunteers and emphasized the motion states to take back the building by any means necessary.
"They put their hearts and souls into this project. You signed a legally binding lease. No court is going to look at you twice. If you want to question the lease do that in five years. ... there is no reason for this to come now when they're working so hard to fix everything we broke," Chelsea Hart added.
Heritage Accord, the non-profit which has done the heavy lifting to save the building reminded the council that she has a signed lease.
"If you want to work with us that's great. We have a lease we will proceed under that lease," Connie Smith with Heritage Accord said.
Board members unanimously voted to table the issue after listening to residents' concerns and the presentation on progress by Heritage Accord.
The time will give the Law Director time to research the matter.