2018-05-16 / News

Committee to forge ahead with fitness center plan

BY MARGARET WHITMER
Reporter

CROSWELL — The committee dedicated to creating a regional health and fitness center in Croswell made a good case for the project last week after making it clear that no tax money will be used to build it.

"A request for public funds is no longer on the agenda," announced Croswell Mayor Mike McMillan at a public hearing held May 7 prior to the regular city council meeting. "That is no longer part of the project. Community organizations are going to raise the funds privately."

Dr. Denise Korniewicz addressed a crowd of more than 30 residents interested in hearing more details about a grassroots plan to build a multi-million dollar Community Health and Fitness Center in the city.

"It will not be just a gym. It will not be like the YMCA (in Port Huron)," she explained. "It will be a full-service health center. We want a healthy community."

Korniewicz said the intent of the CHFC project is to fulfill the wishes expressed by residents and thus incorporated last year into the city's new Master Plan.

"It's right off of page twelve," she said. "'Enhance and increase the quality of life for Croswell residents of all ages by providing recreation and health facilities.' This fits right into the plan."

Potential activities for the proposed center could include an olympic-sized lap pool where area residents could swim, take lessons and compete; fitness rooms; an indoor track; and a basketball court, along with racquetball, tennis, rooms for parties and a daycare.

It also would include rooms for classes, and leased office space by health organizations and health-related retail businesses.

The CHFC committee will spend the next five years seeking donations, sponsors, endowments and eventually grants to help sustain the center.

Concerns were expressed both by the city council and the public when the steering committee asked for $15,000 from the city to pay for an architectural rendering of the proposed center.

That request was withdrawn after the city's engineer, Fleis & Vandenbrink, offered to donate a rendering, which was displayed at Monday's hearing.

Concerns also were expressed that the local population may not be sufficient to keep the center's doors open.

Korniewicz pointed out that not only does the area's population swell during the tourist season, but that public memberships would not be the center's sole means of support.

It also would be supported through the leasing of office and retail space, paid activities, parties (including pool parties), meetings, endowments, and partnerships with hospitals.

It even could possibly be funded through partnerships with area hotels and campgrounds whose summer guests are always looking for something to do.

"People already have asked me about leasing space," she said, adding that she's also been approached by yoga instructors, holistic providers and health food and fitness clothing retailers.

Korniewicz noted that people often are resistant at first to a new idea, but that over time people change their minds.

Response from residents at the meeting was predominantly receptive.

"You can always scale down the project if you don't meet your funding target," said resident Mike O'Vell.

Resident John Slezinsky noted that parents want their children to learn how to swim and they want a swim team, and that tourists are always looking for something to do.

Added resident Brad Farrell, "A lot of small towns have nothing to bring people in. I think it's a great idea."

McMillan said that when a grassroots committee approaches the city council, trying to make something new happen, the council can only say yes.

"It's like that quote from Wayne Gretsky - 'A shot never taken will always miss,'" he said. "Who are we to shoot it down?"

The CHFC committee will continue to meet with City Administrator Sam Moore and the council, cement fundraising plans and set up informational booths during summer events.

In other business, the council:

- Voted to retain Moore as city administrator following an annual evaluation.

Moore was praised for overseeing downtown infrastructure improvements, successfully obtaining a multi-million-dollar state grant to build a new water plant, and obtaining more property for the city along the Black River.

Council members suggested that Moore needs to improve communication with the community, city personnel and council members.

- Discussed reconvening a city blight committee to consider upping penalties for city residents and absentee landlords who do not maintain their properties, including making repeated violations a civil infraction punishable by heftier fines and even jail time.

The measures were discussed by the original blight committee but were tabled because court time entails considerable costs for the city.

McMillan said that may be a price the city must consider to reduce the problem.

Added council member Rob Butler, "Last weekend it was so nice seeing people all working outside making their places look nice. Then you walk by some places and it's like 'Eh, just kick it out the door.'"

- Tentatively approved a bid from Ed Birkmeier Well Drilling for $49,484 to construct an observation well and a production well for the city's planned new water treatment facility, provided the company can meet the contract timeline.

The bid was recommended by engineer Fleis & Vandenbrink, in accordance with and funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation Infrastructure Capacity Enhancement grant received by the city last year.

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