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Community center plans divide Indian River Shores


Distinct differences of opinion on the value – and the potential cost – of having a spacious and classy Community Center as part of the Indian River Shores Town Hall complex mean that the town will price out two different options for the building.

One view, voiced most forcefully by Councilman Dick Haverland, is that the current size is sufficient and that two-thirds of Town residents live in private communities with clubhouses they can use for large or lavish events.

But Councilwoman Debbi Peniston says the Shores’ bridge club and other groups that use the existing Community Center on a regular basis are at capacity, and the Shores needs a facility that fits the upscale character of the Town.

Haverland said, “98 percent of the users have 50 or fewer people,” and suggested rental fees would never pay for a bigger building, but Peniston argued that the facility is not about breaking even.

“Having a Community Center where people can come together is an important part of the community,” Peniston said, adding that she thought the additional space could be included in the building design “without doubling the expense.”

“If you’re going to do it, do it right and do it nice,” Peniston said.

Town Management Assistant Stephanie-Jo Osborn, who shows the Community Center to potential renters, said people are always impressed by the well-kept grounds and the lovely oak canopy, but the size and condition of the center is usually a deal-breaker.

“It would be wonderful to have a building that matches the rest of the Town and that beautiful area out there,” she said.

Former Vice Mayor Jerry Weick, who is managing the community center project on a voluntary basis, agrees with Peniston and Osborn.

He said the electrical wiring and plumbing along one main wall leading to the kitchen and bathrooms is the pricey part of the construction, and that boosting the meeting space from 1,200 to 1,800 square feet can be done at reasonable cost.

The floors in the current building are sagging and creaky, and the center was not intended as a party venue or meeting hall. “It’s pretty much decided that this building is not going to fall down now, but it’s going to fall down sometime and we need to replace it,” Weick said.

Weick said this is an opportunity to offer town residents an amenity they can use and be proud of, and also something the Shores could market for larger events and weddings to help defray the costs.

But Mayor Brian Barefoot cautioned his fellow council members about the appearance of the Town getting into the banquet hall business. “I don’t want our local restaurants and facilities to think that we’re competing with them.”

Weick surveyed the groups that frequently use the center, as well as town staff who show it to potential renters, and incorporated their input into the conceptual plan he presented to the Shores Town Council in late January.

One option on the table would keep the building the same size – 2,000 square foot – and scale back amenities proposed by Weick; the alternate 3,000-square-foot option would expand the meeting and party space, and provide conveniences such as storage areas for weekly renters, a portico at the entry and a covered back patio for outdoor events.

Construction costs for the building, slated for construction in mid 2018, are estimated at $200,000 to $400,000.

Weick was directed to contact design-build firms and to work with Building Official Jose Guanch to get a better handle on what the two visions of the building might cost, breaking out how much upgrades like the covered portico and the back patio add to the price tag so those features can be weighed by the council.

Councilman Bob Auwaerter suggested that Weick include some technology features in the building design, such as wireless internet and a modern wireless speaker system.

The public will have a chance to comment before the council approves a plan, but the money to build the center would not come out of property taxes.

Town Manager Robbie Stabe said the Shores expects to get about a half-million for its infrastructure fund over the next year, the Town’s share of the county’s optional penny sales tax. Those funds can only be used for capital projects.