About 150 people attended a meeting at the Lyons Community Center May 22 meant as a “listening session” to get the public’s opinion on the future of the Center. It is currently up for sale because the LLC that owns the building has been unable to cover its expenses, including a mortgage held by the USDA.
The center operated from the Broad Street home donated by Myron Taylor from its inception in 1942 until 2005, when it moved to its present home on Manhattan Street. The new building was constructed in 2004, with the help of many local businesses and a major benefactor, Bob Ohmann. This new facility includes a 1,500-seat 110 x 110 gymnasium, a 60 x 80 auxiliary gymnasium for small programming or rentals, a fitness area, a computer lab, a snack bar, a kitchen, and four meeting rooms.
The building has been for sale since the middle of 2011, when the LLC’s board determined that it could no longer meet the center’s funding requirements. Private funding in the range of $40,000 per year, and public funding in excess of $50,000 per year from the Lyons Central School District and Village of Lyons had been cut, C.J. Britt, president of the community center’s board said at the time.
So far, there has not been much interest in the 9 Manhattan Street facility. According to loopnet.com, the asking price is $975,000.
Of the 22 people who spoke at the May 22 hour-long meeting, no one said they wanted to see the community center close. The concern from some, however, was how the municipalities would pay to keep it open if they took it over. Lyons Town Supervisor Brian Manktelow said it’s not clear how much it would cost or the extent of other revenue streams available.
“There’s no question we want to keep it going,” he said. “The center is a vital part of our community. But we want to know more about the financials; how much money comes in from fundraisers, things like that. We need all that information before we can make a decision.”
He noted that several good suggestions were made, including if the town, village or school board decide to move forward with public ownership, a public referendum would be required.
“I support that,” Manktelow said. “We also talked about a bonding. There will be future capital improvement projects that will be expensive. The gym floor will need maintenance and the building’s roof. We don’t want to be giving them an open checkbook.”
Some speakers, including Lyons resident Mark DeCracker who has worked with a group recently to construct a handicapped accessible hiking trail at the center, spoke in favor of public ownership of the center, even if it means adding it to the property tax burden of the local property owners. Jim Blandino and Keith Bridger, as well as former Lyons Town and Village Justice Nicholas Forgione, also agreed that the center was too important to lose, conceding that it might have to be financially supported with public dollars.
Lyons resident Donna DeWolf, however, had a different opinion. A user of the center for various programs and a supporter of its existence, she said it was too much to ask for it to be added to the tax burden of an already struggling community.
DeWolf who grew up in Lyons and plans to stay after she retires in the near future, said her farm and others like it, can’t sustain the increasing demands of village, town, county and school taxes. Adding the cost of the community center to the burden is unreasonable, she said.
Municipal officials said when all of the taxes property owners paid are added together, the burden is between $50 and $60 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is a heavy cost, in what they see as a depressed area.
DeWolf was also critical that some of the people at the meeting came from outside the Lyons community and would have no financial responsibility for the center should it be paid for with tax money.
“I also want to know, if it is put on (the municipal burden), what would be coming off,” she said. “It should have zero impact.”
The information and suggestions that came out of the May 22 meeting will be taken back to the various boards where discussions will continue.
Village Mayor Corrine Kleisle is hopeful that a solution can be found so the center can remain open and benefit the community.
Manktelow said there is no deadline for a decision.
Special events, like AAU Basketball tournaments, Billy Martin’s Cole All Star Circus, Junior Lions Cheerleading Competition, Panthers Extreme Cheerleading, Pee Wee Wrestling Tournament, high school basketball and volleyball, and the New York State Eastern Golden Gloves Boxing Championship take place at Lyons Community Center each year.