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Twp. approves ballot language for $20M community center

A conceptual design plan for the entry level of the proposed $20 million Oxford community center, which, if approved by voters in August, would be built at Stony Lake Township Park. (click for larger version)
April 16, 2014 - Ballot language asking voters to support the construction and operation of a community center in Oxford was approved last week 7-0 by the township board.

When voters trek to the polls for the Aug. 5 primary election, they will face two questions.

The first is a bond proposal that, if approved, would give the township permission to borrow up to $20 million to construct, furnish and equip a community center. The township would have 25 years to pay off the debt.

In order to pay the debt, township and village property owners would be expected to pay an annual millage beginning with the December 2014 tax bill. That millage would start out at 1.6 mills. After that, the estimated average tax rate to retire the bonds would be 1.52 mills.

One mill is worth $1 for every $1,000 of a property's taxable value.

In addition to the bond proposal, voters will be asked to approve a five-year, 0.05-mill tax to help fund the community center's operations. If approved, it, too, would begin with the December 2014 tax bill and generate approximately $34,000 in its first year of levy.

The township Parks and Recreation Department is looking to build a 69,500-square-foot, two-level community center with amenities for youth, adults and senior citizens in Stony Lake Township Park, north of the village and on the west side of M-24.

"We were tasked to pursue this by residents and that's what we're going to do," said Parks/Rec. Director Ron Davis.

According to conceptual design plans, this center would include a gymnasium divided into three multi-activity courts, a three-lane indoor track for walking and running, a community pool, men's and women's locker rooms, a senior lifestyle center, four multipurpose community rooms, a fitness area and new administrative offices for the parks/rec. department.

When the proposed center was presented to the township board at its March meeting, it had an estimated cost of $25.5 million.

Davis explained to this reporter the amount was reduced to $20 million because he didn't want to exceed the total 1.65-mill amount that he originally told officials and residents would be requested for this project.

"In order to get the $25 million, I would have to go back on my word and levy more millage," he explained. "I'm not going to go back on my word and say, 'You know what? We do want to build a $25 million facility; now, it's going to cost you 1.75 (mills).' I'm not going to do that. We're sticking to that 1.65 (mills)."

The idea is for the proposed center's combined 1.65-mill levy to replace the current 1.65-mill levy that's been paying off the fire department/public library bond debt.

The fire/library debt millage expires with the December 2015 tax collection.

So, for the December 2014 and December 2015 tax collections, if the proposed center is approved by voters, Oxford residents would experience a 1.65-mill tax increase because they would be paying for both the old and new bond debts.

It wouldn't be until the December 2016 tax collection that residents would only pay the community center's bond debt.

Some residents who live next to Stony Lake Township Park voiced their concerns about the project.

"Our yard backs up to the park," said resident Mary Stowers. "My nightmare is that I'm going to have a parking lot for my view."

She also expressed concerns about the cost and the amount of traffic the proposed center could generate.

Davis encouraged people with questions and concerns to get involved with the project. He said the final design for the community center will be based on public input and participation "just like any other projects that we've done here," such as the Kids Kingdom playground, Oakwood Lake Township Park and the KLR Splash Pad.

"There will be ample opportunity for people to get involved," he said.

On Tuesday, April 22, an informational meeting regarding the proposed community center will be held at 6:30 p.m. on the ground floor of the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center, located downtown at 28 N. Washington St.

"I don't care if you vote 'no,' to be honest with you," Davis said. "All I ask is (that) you get involved, know what you're voting on just like any other topic that we vote on every day, and if you want to take an active role . . . with the project, we welcome it. I definitely welcome that."

"Everything's transparent. Everything's an open-book in our department," he added. "If you're interested, go to our website, shoot me an e-mail, call me tomorrow, we'll get you involved. We're not trying to hide anything. We want to get more people involved with the project."

To learn more, please visit www.oxparkrec.org or call (248) 628-1720.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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