The county council rejected the request from the Morgan School District to help fund the new Trojan Centennial Center on Tuesday. Kelly Wright, former Morgan County Attorney, and President of the Morgan Education Foundation appealed to the council to contribute funds toward the center construction. Wright conveyed the intent of the school district to open the facility to the public and asked that the county utilize funds from impact fees designated for regional parks.
Impact fees are charged to new construction in the county. The intent of the impact fee is to help the county fund the cost of growth. Impact fees are designated to pay for emergency services, parks, and other costs to the county related to growth. Both the Wilkinson Recplex and the County Fairgrounds have received funding from the regional park impact fees in the past.
Wright stated, “It is our understanding that the impact fees that the county has imposed are for growth and they are to address among other things community and regional parks. They are for capital facilities as opposed to personal property and of the type and my understanding is that there is reference to an indoor recreation center [in the county’s plan].” Wright asked that some or all of the approximately $18,000 that the county has in the regional park fund be designated to help build the Trojan Center. Wright offered to broker an interlocal agreement between the county and the school district to assure public access as a part of their contribution to the project.
Councilmember Ned Mecham stated, “I have mixed feelings. I have the feeling that Ned should be able to donate to it…I have a question taking money that should go to local parks and I realize this is going to be an indoor facility. I have mixed feelings.” Mecham offered to donate personally and Wright was quick to take him up on his offer. Member Mathews also added, “Impact fees are imposed on new development… and it is based on growth and I think those people that pay those impact fees expect that money to be spent in their particular area based on growth.”
Member Kilmer disagreed. He observed that regional park funds were spent on the Recplex and the Fairgrounds. He said, “I look at regional in a county our size as anything regional would be basically countywide…I look at it as a great opportunity to take into consideration our task in our form of government that requires us to work with the city and schools to preserver resources... if this can be deemed a regional indoor recreation center that is available to the public… if they [the school district] are willing to give us that agreement [to make the facility available to the public], for this basically a pittance, when you look at the cost of the project.” Kilmer observed that in other areas where this type of facility has been constructed that the local government had paid substantially more, sometimes fifty percent, of the construction cost of the facility. He also noted that with the impact fee revenue as small annually as it is that it will be many years before the county could afford to build a recreation center for general public use.
In the end Wright and the school district walked away empty handed other than a commitment from some of the council members to personally donate funds. The council voted five to one against providing funding to the school district with only member Kilmer supporting considering a contribution to the project.