City Council and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board members discussed using ECHO grant money for a gym expansion.
A group of Silver Sands Middle School students sat outside the Port Orange city offices after classes had let out. It's a recurring trend Parks and Recreation Director Susan Lovallo has seen and one of the reasons the city and the Parks and Recreation board have been in discussion about expanding recreational facilities.
On Tuesday, March 27, a joint workshop with City Council and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board resulted in a consensus that the city needs to look at building upon the current gymnasium, constructing a community center and expanding the Coraci Sports Complex.
Board members also said they would like to focus attention on constructing a community center near the middle schools but that they should also look at the west side of the city where there has been growth. It's that same growth that has led the city to look for additional recreation outlets.
"We're capping the amount of kids because we just don't have the space," Councilman Drew Bastian said.
Vice Mayor Scott Stiltner said another indication that the community wants activities to partake in was the turnout for the Port Orange Spring Fair and Food Festival. Stiltner added that he feels residents also want activities that are within the city, not simply within the region.
"We need to look at needs versus wants," Stiltner said. "A lot of stuff with parks and rec are not essential needs but play a huge factor in the quality of life and why people choose to stay here."
Councilman Chase Tramont questioned how Parks and Recreation will be involved in youth athletics while adding that he is interested in the expansion of Coraci. However he said he sees very little advantage to building a major sports complex and is more interested in exploring the possibility of expanding the City Center gym.
"What I want is quality," Mayor Don Burnette said. "We're growing as a population so we have to be forward-thinking."
At the meeting's closure, Burnette, City Council members and Parks and Recreation board members came to a general agreement that they would like to see the gym expansion happen by 2020 and the community center constructed by 2022.
Recreation Advisory Board Chair Jack Wiles said that if the city has plans to expand the current gym, it will need to be done soon as the Environmental, Cultural, Historical and Outdoor program expires in 2020. Volusia County residents will need to vote to approval its renewal.
Because of this deadline, the city would need to apply for ECHO grant money before 2020. However, Wiles and the board have previously discussed the idea of replacing ECHO tax dollars with a self-imposed tax for parks and rec through a possible referendum to keep those dollars in Port Orange.
"We have the land, we've got the building, it's 50-50 match. So what's the building and land worth?" Wiles said. "We put in a grant for whatever the expansion is. We should be able to match that value to go expand the gym."