BOARDMAN PARK Levy would help fund rec center

School officials said they believe financial needs of the schools should be addressed first.
BOARDMAN -- With possibly two new facilities to be built in the next two years, township residents will have no problem finding a place to swim -- but taxpayers will soon decide if the community needs another place to take a dip and shoot hoops.
Township trustees have voted to allow Boardman Park commissioners to place a 1.8-mill, 30-year tax levy on the ballot to cover a $24 million five-year master plan. A proposed community recreation and senior center, under the control of Boardman Park and slated to be built as early as 2004, will take up $19 million of the total.
The Youngstown YMCA is already in the construction phase of a similar facility on the grounds of the St. Elizabeth Health Center Boardman campus. Groundbreaking for the 80,000-square-foot facility is March 27.
The two facilities would be within walking distance of each other in a township of little more than 50,000 residents.
Target membership: Ken Rudge, the YMCA's chief executive, said the metro facility will need at least 2,500 to 3,000 new family memberships with an additional 500 to 600 single memberships to be self sustaining. Dan Slagle, superintendent of Boardman parks, said the community center will need roughly 12,500 members to stay above water, but he said his research shows the center will likely attract 35 percent to 40 percent of the township's total population.
Rudge said it is virtually impossible for one facility to address all the needs of the community; therefore, having two facilities will give way to diverse programs. He said, however, there will be a great deal of duplication in the two facilities.
"There is no question that both organizations are looking at very similar facilities," he said. "I can't worry about what other organizations are going to do. We just have to do the best job of serving our members."
Rudge said park officials would be wise to hold off for a few months after the new YMCA has been built before going forward with the community center. He said that would allow Slagle and park commissioners time to see what needs are not being addressed by the YMCA facility.
Sees a niche: According to Slagle, there is no need to wait before placing the issue on the May primary ballot. He said the recreation center will include a senior center, a 450-seat banquet facility, a youth multipurpose room and an outdoor youth park -- all things that will set the recreation center apart from the YMCA facility.
Slagle added that the two facilities will have a different membership base with the recreation center catering almost entirely to Boardman residents and the new YMCA focusing on the entire southern portion of Mahoning County.
"The bottom line is the market is big enough for both to exist," he said. "We would not propose this if we did not think it would work or would be a burden on the taxpayers."
Despite the potential proximity of the two buildings and need to draw members from the surrounding area, both organizations say they are in full support of the other.
Park officials are also looking for support from the Boardman school district, which is expected to use the recreation center's pool once it is completed.
Opposes timing: Don Dailey, superintendent of schools, said the board has remained uncomfortable with the fact that the issue will appear on the ballot in May. The school board will likely be asking taxpayers for an operating levy in November to avoid a deficit by the 2003-2004 school year.
"The timing is not right," said Dailey. "We believe that the most important thing in the community is the educational institutions, then you can begin to worry about recreational facilities and other things."
Dailey said the school district would gladly partner with the park district in the use of the proposed facility if it were done after the financial needs of the school district have been met.