by Logan Gruber
At the April 6 city council meeting, council members voted to accept the recommendations made by the facilities task force presented to the council by Phil Barnes of WSB and Associates Inc., a professional facilitator.
The facilities task force was created after some serious turbulence was encountered about the city hall/community center issue and has a few council members on it, as well as a number of residents. An outside facilitator was brought in to help guide the task force to a common understanding.
The task force began by forming a vision statement which read: “St. Joseph’s facilities align with the city’s needs, and are successful because they support a growing and diverse community and tax base, while providing an engaging, sustainable and affordable way to enhance community interaction and communication between citizens and government.”
After a few meetings, the concerns were broken down, and a “vote-able” recommendation was reached.
“We spent a whole meeting on municipal finance, and I can tell you at the end of the day, the task force knows they won’t become experts on municipal finance!” Barnes said with a laugh.
Even though the task force might not be experts on finance, their recommendation is based on many good ideas and strong leadership.
Basically, the task force recommends the city to move forward with a community-center facility first.
“There is an understanding there are other needs outside of a government center,” Barnes said.
The most important part of the community center, the task force thought, would be a multi-purpose gym. The gym would be an open space for basketball, volleyball walking and more.
“The task force also doesn’t want anything that would compete with the private sector,” Barnes noted, such as work-out equipment.
Another need identified for the community center is a multi-purpose room for community gatherings, lectures, dances, classes and more. A library-type space is also recommended, but one that does not require full-time staffing. The location of the community center is also of importance, as listed in the memo. It should be accessible to those with disabilities, as well as those without vehicles.
The second item the task force recommends the city move forward on is police facilities. Listed as priorities are: evidence space, interview space, a changing room, storage space and a safe environment for victims. The task force also recognized the need for facilities for the city administration, but felt the community center and police facilities take precedence.
The task force also recommends sound financial decisions and planning, and realizes the community center and police facility may need to be created in phases.
The full recommendation is available on the city website, at cityofstjoseph.com.