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City prepares for community center

Council looks to budget for Iowa Street facility staff
Solon City Council members started budget discussions for the upcoming fiscal year at a Jan. 3 meeting. Included in the next budget will be some initial staffing for the former middle school (above), which is in the process of becoming a community center. (file photo)

SOLON– It’s the next step for Solon.
The city and the school district have worked for months to develop a partnership to operate the former middle school on Iowa Street as a community center.
At a Jan. 3 meeting, Solon City Council members and City Administrator Cami Rasmussen discussed how to staff it in the upcoming fiscal year.
“This is I think a transition plan to get us from where we are to where we need to go to get this building functioning for the community,” Rasmussen told council members.
In the next fiscal year, the city’s parks and recreation activities director position held by Mike Reeve will be modified. Currently, it’s meant to be a shared position with duties under the public works and recreation departments. Under the plan considered last week by the city, Reeve will become a full time recreation coordinator, and an additional part-time clerk will be added to help.
The conversation started with the collaborative committee working to investigate the use of the former middle school as a community center, Rasmussen said.
“And then the next question would be how do we do that with the staff that we have?” she asked.
The idea has been shared with staff and council members, she continued. “The reason we’re reviewing it tonight is I need to know the council is on board with this direction as I’m preparing the budget.”
Under the plan, the recreation coordinator position would be responsible to the city administrator instead of the public works director, Rasmussen explained.
Reeve is already loaded down by current programming, she said, so a new part-time deputy clerk will provide support to both the recreation department and city hall, while a new software service will assume scheduling for recreation programs and facility rentals.
The city already has some web-based scheduling, Rasmussen said, but city staff all had a chance to review the program and were impressed.
“It really simplifies things for the resident,” she said. “I was blown away, I had no idea there were programs like this out there.”
Reeve will be relocated to the Iowa Street facility, but some added site supervision will be needed for evenings and weekends, she noted.
The moves are expected to have a limited impact on the budget.
The part-time supervisor positions would hopefully be paid for through user fees at the community center. The deputy clerk and Reeve are already included in the budget for the upcoming year, leaving a onetime $3,000 fee and an annual $4,500 subscription for the web-based services, she said.
Rasmussen indicated much work still needs to be done to get the middle school up and for public use. A lease agreement and a document outlining responsibilities are still in the works.
The Solon Community School District has committed to maintaining ownership of the building, and will continue to utilize the oldest portion for administrative offices.
But the rest of the complex, including the auditorium, band and choir rooms, the middle school offices, classrooms and a stand-alone science building, will not be used by the school system and could potentially be part of a community center. Some use of the existing gym is also anticipated.
How the facility might be used and how the city and school might partner to provide the service are questions currently being hashed out in committee by representatives of the two local governments.
“I think it’s a good plan,” council member Steve Duncan said. “If we’re going to make this community center work, certainly, we have to have this kind of structure to get it off and going.”
The community will continue to expand its services as it grows, he said, and residents have responded with suggestions for use of the building.
But Mayor Steve Stange had questions about usage.
City recreation programs serve residents outside the city limits, and Stange wanted assurance non-residents would help pay.
“I want to make sure that the funding is fair,” he said.
Duncan said there would be a fee structure for usage.