Study is underway seeking interest in community center
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
On-line surveys are being sent to Crawford County residents, groups, and organizations to gauge their interest in building a community center, which would be used by groups of all ages.
The survey is being completed in conjunction with a business plan and feasibility study being done by Diane Lupke & Associates, Inc.
Erich Podjaske, the economic and zoning administrator for the City of Grayling, said initially the group was focused on studying the need to create more day care options in the area. After consulting with the Department of Health and Human Services officials and licensed day care providers, the committee learned there was huge need for day care providers and space to accommodate new facilities.
Since then, plans have morphed into a study for a community center, which would serve toddlers up to older adults.
In August of last year, a community center committee was formed. Members include Podjaske; Alice Snyder, the executive director of the Crawford County Commission on Aging and Senior Center; Traci Cook, the executive director for the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce, Hayley Strohpaul, office assistant and event planner for the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce; Cheryl Melroy, the community outreach coordinator from Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital: Jillian Tremonti Engelhardt, the studio director from the AuSable Dance Center; and Matt Shaw, the branch manager for the Northland Area Federal Credit Union.
The center would be a public-private collaboration, which would house community agencies, exercise space, and space which would be leased to for-profit businesses.
The Crawford County Commission on Aging has been studying ideas for a new location for over a decade.
Snyder said the community center plans range from a small-scale proposal that would house a gym and exercise equipment to having a larger building with a swimming pool. A walking track for winter use would be part of the proposal.
“That’s one of the things we need is a place to walk in the winter and the gym space,” she said. “It’s not only from the Commission on Aging, but we hear it from other places that there is not a place for kids to go and play unless they are in an organized sport.”
The community center would be located on property near the future site of the Northern Market adjacent to Walgreens. Adding the property where the Crawford County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is now located could be part of the proposal. The agency, as well as other community agencies, could lease space in the center.
“The DHHS lease agreement is a solid, steady piece of income that would help support that building,” Snyder said. “From a social services perspective, we’re also looking at it as one- stop-shop kind of place.”
Camp Grayling officials have expressed interest in the community center as a place where they could host classes and conferences.
A $50,000 grant from the University of Michigan’s Defense Manufacturing Assistance Program was obtained by the committee to fund the feasibility study.
“It came at the perfect time, so that’s what we decided to put the money toward,” Podjaske said.
The community center would be something that would entice people to move to the Grayling area as economic development continues.
“The more we started thinking about it, we are trying to create that sense of place since more families are going to be moving to Grayling and to Crawford County. We’re trying to get something to help attract them, so when they move here, there are things for kids and families to do,” Podjaske said. “If the Northern Market takes off, it will be right behind that too, so it will be a great partnership there if that happens.”
The center could house computers, and equipment for graphic design and small woodworking projects.
“We’re trying to make this for all generations,” Podjaske said. “We don’t want it to be a sportsplex. We want it be an actual community center so it’s for the young to the old.”
Residents who do not have computers or other electronic devices are encouraged to fill out the survey at a Crawford County Library or at the Commission on Aging and Senior Center.
“We’re trying to get the information out to as many groups as possible to see if there is any interest at this point,” said Crawford County Commissioner Jamie McClain, the liaison who serves on the Crawford County Commission on Aging Board.
The feasibility study is expected to be completed in May. A large part of the study will determine recommendations for funding the building and operating costs for the community center.
“As of right now, we have no clue about how we are going for the money,” Podjaske said.
The City of Grayling purchased over six acres of land as the site for the community center, where a lumber and flooring mill operated.
“If the feasibility comes back and says, no you just cannot handle a community center right now, then we would put that property back up for sale or market it for another development,” Podjaske said.