At the Monday, Jan. 28 meeting, Barnesville Village Council gave the go-ahead for Poggemeyer Design Group, Inc. to prepare and file a Local Government Innovation Fund grant for a proposed Community Center.

Bob Jabot and Linda Amos of Poggemeyer presented council with information about the grant program. Amos said this will be the last year the LGIF money is available and could provided up to $100,000 for planning for a regional facility with lead and supporting partners. Amos said the design could be including in the grant. She said Poggemeyer has written several grants for other Ohio projects. Amos said the company would apply for the funds free of charge. She said if the application is successful, the next step would be a feasibility study to learn how to proceed. She said the LGIF also offers an interest-free loan for $100,000 to each partner, up to $500,000. Amos said the loan requires a 10 percent local match, but property or time invested can be used as a match. She said Poggemeyer submitted three successful programs all using in-kind matches. She said the grant application is due March 1 and is done online.

I think this project has an application with the community center, Amos said. It is a good match because we have public and private entities talking about this. She said the grant program requires a lead agency.

Council also heard from Economic Development Director Bill Knox who requested the community center discussion be put on the agenda for the Monday, Jan. 28 meeting. Also attending the meeting were several community members, including high school and summer swim team coach Bobbi Jo Johnson who presented the mayor with a petition in support of the community center, signed by 598 people.

Knox said talk of a community center began more than a decade ago and was resumed in 2011 when a steering committee was formed and met several times. The steering committee consisted of representatives of the village, county, Barnesville Exempted Village School District, Barnesville Hospital and other interested citizens. Knox said talk slowed in anticipation of oil and gas lease money and said now was a good time to resume the discussion and pursue the idea.

Poggemeyer has provided engineering and consulting services to the village for over 20 years, Knox said. They designed our water treatment plant, our wastewater treatment plant improvements, the main waterline replacement from our treatment plant to the pumpkin tower and the Greenmount Ave tower, the Quaker City water project, and a bunch of smaller projects. They have a remarkable record of finding resources to make projects come to fruition and are a main reason the village has progressed to the extent we have over the past 20 years. Im very excited about our community center and the development potential of extending water to I-70."

Knox said there is widespread support for the project.

One of those people, Bobbi Jo Johnson, a resident of Barnesville for over 40 years, said the Barnesville Memorial Park pool is the only public pool in the county, but it is aging and BHS swim team members have to travel to Wheeling every time they practice, in addition to travel for meets. She asked council to make the concept of a community center with an indoor aquatic center a priority on your list of projects in the upcoming year.

Johnson detailed the summer and high school swim programs. She said that in the past five years, the summer program has included up to 210 swimmers and over the last eight years, has taught water safety to at least 500 very young swimmers. Johnson said the high school program began 13 years ago and has grown from nine swimmers to up to 25 in the past five years. She said this year, the team had 30 scheduled practices from Nov. 1 to Jan. 28, requiring a 55-minute bus trip each way. Johnson said her dedicated swimmers study by flashlight on the return bus trip. Some swimmers also make additional trips to the YMCA to practice. Meets require travel as far away as Dover and Columbus.

I think that says a lot about my swimmers and their dedication and commitment, she said.

Johnson said that despite the obstacles the team has accomplished the following:

Been the first Belmont County school to send female swimmers to state competition and boys at least twice;

Have won an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship;

Have swimmers take the podium at the state championship every year, and this year won additional medals for the boys, with the girls winning Small School runner up. She noted that almost all of the championship swimmers began in the summer program.

Johnson said a community center would provide for the needs of the entire community.

Our community has been an amazing place to live over the past 40 year, with the access to a top rated hospital, excellent schools, an amazing Pumpkin Festival, a Mansion Museum that keeps getting better and a park, that with upgrades, would and could rival large towns with its facilities. The people who have signed this petition are asking that you, as a village council, move our community into the 21st Century with upgrades to our park and indoor swimming pool for our families and children, Johnson said.

Resident Julie Starr said, There is really a diverse group of people interested in a pool and indoor recreational facility. We really do have a great community and it would just better us to have another thing to be proud of.

Possible locations for the community center, as discussed in past steering committee meetings, are the park, the former Bobs Chevrolet property (now site of the JEDD II), property donated to the village by Oxford Mining across from the Warren Township Garage, the former Childrens Home property in Tacoma, the Eastern Ohio Regional Industrial Park on SR 800 North (JEDD I), property below the medical center near the hospital and property near the middle and high schools. Location would depend upon the design of the building and would require at least 10 to 15 acres.

Needs for the center were also discussed at the time and including an indoor pool and indoor track for the school, as well as space for the hospitals physical, cardiac and pulmonary therapy. Use of the center for public and private events were also discussed. Other potential functions discussed included courts for various sports, as well as a concession area.