BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon City Council decided to acquire more community feedback before they approve the final design of the new Stockert Youth and Community Center multipurpose building.
Members of the SYCC board and Michael Mills, managing principal with the Mills Group, attended the June 16 city council member to present the building plans approved by the SYCC board. Mills gave a description of the final plans that were approved during the May 5 SYCC board meeting.
After the presentation, city council member CJ Rylands said he has seen this project evolve and knows city officials have raised money for it for years, but he is afraid they haven’t received enough community input on the final design.
“We possibly haven’t reached out enough into the community to see what their expectations are, and maybe it’s time for an opportunity to try to broaden the vision and look at the whole property,” Rylands said. “I was advocating [the original SYCC building and proposed multipurpose addition] be connected because if we move everything over there [to the new structure] that’s going to become a relic, and I’m not afraid to invest money in tangible things like this, so if we elevate the old building in conjunction with offering this new space, it could be done in one fell swoop.”
He also recommended meeting with local groups to receive their input on the project.
“I think we should ask them, ‘what do they want to see in a community recreation center?’ I like what you’ve done here,” Rylands said to Mills, “but I would like to get more people involved in the process, take the old building and do something altogether. The community’s going to be paying this back for 40 years and I’m not afraid to take a little more time and spend a little more money or a lot more money and get what is going to serve this community for the next several decades.”
Mayor Robbie Skinner said the SYCC board has been discussing the building specifications for months during their monthly meetings that are open to the public. He also didn’t think inviting the public to a city council meeting or a public meeting would be productive.
“We could be here for hours on end, taking suggestions and fielding comments and we’ve had the SYCC board meetings to channel those so that we would have Michael one-on-one, and we could tweak this, but all those meetings were open to the public,” Skinner said.
Skinner also wanted to emphasize this new building was not only going to be used for SYCC’s youth program.
“All of our discussions have been about way more than just basketball,” the mayor said. “The reason you see the basketball floor is because that’s one of the functions; it’s like when you look at the Charleston Civic Center, which has a big basketball court in the middle of it, but the Charleston Civic Center also transitions into a concert setting where the floor gets rolled up and put away and they a stage is put out there. They have wrestling in there and have monster truck rallies, so it is a multipurpose facility.”
“If we have a Strawberry Festival craft show in there, there’ll be a tarp down over the floor so vendors can set up,” Skinner added. “If we have an indoor Festival Fridays, there’ll be tarps down and the vendors will get set up, and any community event that needs a large space can be housed right there.”
City recorder Randy Sanders said he was also unaware of any plans to move all SYCC operations into the new structure.
“One thing I want to clarify, CJ, is I don’t think anyone’s ever advocated moving everything out of the old building into the new building,” Sanders said. “That old building is going to be used pretty much the way it’s being used now. I don’t think there are any classrooms (in SYCC) that the Board of Education is using that they are going to move. I don’t think the administrative part of SYCC is going to move to the new building. They’re going to be housed in the old building, so it’s going to be really active.”
Rylands said he wants as many interested members of the community to participate in the planning process as possible.
“I’m saying we should go around to where these groups meet, whether it’s a senior center or a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and just ask, show, share this and see if it’s aligned with their expectations and what they want in a community center,” Rylands said.
He said their timeline to have these meetings will be determined by current interest rates. Director of Finance and Administration for the City of Buckhannon Amberle Jenkins said current rates will most likely go up in about six months, so that would be the target timeframe to have a loan set up.
SYCC board member Don Nestor said he and the rest of the board didn’t want to rush, but they would also like to move ahead with the project.
“I think the council and the county and all of us, we understand the importance of our youth – that’s what we’ve spent the last 25 years working on this thing and I think it’s great what we’re considering here,” Nestor said. “I think this is really a tremendous opportunity and it’s out there for kids. We have talked about saving people, we talked about first responders and the importance of first responders to save people’s lives – well, this (recreational opportunities for youth and adults) really saves people’s lives.”
He said SYCC already has about 12,000 hours of engagement every month.
“That is without considering the PALS program and the alternative school, so there are a lot of activities there. All the schools in the county get kids dropped off for their after-school program,” Nestor said. “There’s a lot of things going on there and I think we could get more interest.”
Councilwoman and SYCC board member Pam Bucklew said she hopes the project will move forward soon.
“I’m really excited about the building concept for Stockert Youth and Community Center, and I’ve been on that board for probably 20 years, and I think we can look forward to it and I want to welcome anybody to talk to me about it,” Bucklew said. “I do hope this is taken care of in a really timely manner, and I hope that we are breaking ground within the next six months, and it’ll be a big asset for downtown.”
City council did not vote on the presented design and did not say when the topic would be brought forth for a vote in the future.