Following a heated debate before voting, West Jefferson village council approved the purchase a church that will be repurposed into a community center.
Zion Lutheran Church, located at 221 S. Center St., will be used as a community center that will “centralize” activities taking place within the village, according to mayor Ray Martin.
An appraisal valued the facility and the 2.62 acres it sits on at $300,000. The church’s congregation previously voted unanimously to sell it to the village for $160,000.
“We really believe in what the village wants to do with the space,” said Denise Edwards, pastor of the church.
The 6,000-square-foot space could be used for Zumba classes, lunch and learns, drug advocacy groups and more, according to Martin.
Down the road, the village hopes to add a gymnasium.
But previous village council president Ron Garver, who unsuccessfully tried three times to bring a community center to West Jefferson over the past few years, voiced his strong concerns over the plans.
Garver argued the council had not done its “due diligence” and the purchase was not a “good use of village taxpayer dollars.”
Current council president Steve Johnston argued vehemently that the council knew exactly what it was doing.
“We have a viable facility… for everyone from seniors citizens to preschoolers,” Johnston said. “I think it’s a good idea.”
In June, Garver came to council with plans to build a community recreation center, hoping to get the .25 percent tax increase to fund it on the fall ballot.
Council shot down the proposal five to two.
During Monday’s meeting, Johnston addressed the failed attempt, saying the project had been “unfundable.”
Martin stated he hasn’t talked to a single person who opposed the current plan and that a previous mayor encouraged him to jump at the opportunity.
Martin went on to thank Garver, stating that if it weren’t for his dedication to the project, they may not be considering turning the church into a community center to begin with.
Every member of the council seemed to stand behind the decision, with council members Lorie Cafagno and Mike Conway also speaking out in defense of the purchase.
Randy Otis, the only council member to vote against the purchase, attempted to table the matter until the Jan. 3 meeting to provide more time for community feedback. The motion was not seconded.
Reach Erin Thompson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1615.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU