Sebastian Council considering asking School Board for recreation space

SEBASTIAN – Members of the Sebastian City Council asked themselves “what if…” during a workshop Wednesday night that could mean a community center, more sports opportunities and other recreational possibilities – if the Indian River County School Board and county leaders are so willing.

For the last several years, the Sebastian City Council has discussed the possibilities for a new community or civic center – a place where residents could go to catch a performance, where events could be held indoors, where various activities could happen all at the same time.

Councilman Eugene Wolff brought up the possibility of working with the school district to find a way to utilize the schools’ amenities, including Sebastian River High’s performing arts center.

He noted that the largest portion of residents’ tax bills goes to the school district – which has “beautiful buildings” the general public cannot use.

Councilwoman Andrea Coy said the time probably could not be better to approach the district with the idea of working out an agreement to use the districts’ facilities.

She said the district is considering asking the public for more money – through an increased property tax – and the city should ask what they could get in return.

“I think the time is right, now,” Coy said.

Coy asked Mayor Richard Gillmor to make the same suggestion to the county’s other mayors at his next Mayors Meeting in June.

She said that perhaps the mayors could present a united front in seeking the use of school properties to fulfill recreation needs.

“At the end of the day, the people own them,” Wolff said of the school buildings.

Councilman Don Wright had suggested the city look to the county government regarding finding ways to expand sports opportunities, especially at the Barber Street Sports Complex.

The council also heard from the public regarding future recreation needs.

Louise Kautenburg floated the idea of creating clubhouses at the small neighborhood parks instead of constructing one large community center. She said that as the price of gas goes up – which experts predict will happen – people will be less willing to travel.

Instead, they would prefer to go to their neighborhood clubhouse to participate in clubs, meetings and other activities.

She told the council that communities that have clubhouses are always in use, as various clubs and organizations have been going there for lack of city space.

“It’s a good thing, not a bad thing,” Kautenburg said of the usage levels at the clubhouses.

She asked “what if” Lake Hardee Park had a neighborhood clubhouse that the area residents could take ownership of – be responsible for. What if the garden club in that community took care of the landscaping?

Kautenburg, following in line with several council members, recommended the city have a recreational needs assessment done to determine what exactly the city’s residents need.

As for the city’s current community center, next door to the new City Hall on Main Street, council members agreed they need to consider either renovating the building or demolishing the old and building anew.

“We’ve been going nowhere pretty fast,” Coy said.

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