Not only will the Flat Rock Community Center remain open for the foreseeable future, but city officials plan to reach out to potential new users so its membership can continue to grow.
The fate of the town’s community center was in the balance after some city council members spoke out that the town should consider putting it up for sale. It all came down to the approval of the city’s annual budget, which took place on Monday evening.
As most communities prepare to start a new fiscal year on July 1, Flat Rock had to decide how to proceed with its recreation center.
Like so many such facilities, Flat Rock Community Center has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. For nearly a year and a half, it basically remained closed and even when it reopened, many users didn’t really rush to the doors to start using it again, as the hesitation remained strong.
The city also experienced a particular situation when it faced a major gas leak last summer which caused the evacuation of a large number of residents for several weeks.
One way to cut the city’s losses, so to speak, might be to put the building up for sale to see if there are any interested parties, and if so, what they would be willing to pay for. that.
When news broke that Flat Rock was planning to sell its leisure center, the idea was met with immediate resistance from people who use the facility, and many of them showed up on Monday to show their support. keeping the facility open.
Some of those who spoke identified themselves as residents of other communities. One person told council that the community center was a major deciding factor in moving to the area. Another man said he came from California to care for his mother and was pleasantly surprised by the amenities at Flat Rock Community Center, saying he was a regular user of the pool.
If the center were to close, it would leave the city without a public swimming pool. Flat Rock Community Schools does not have its own pool, so students use the town pool. Many pool users were among those present at the meeting who opposed the sale of the building.
One of the difficulties the community center faces is that employees had to be laid off during the pandemic, so there are currently only part-time employees working there.
However, this is corrected as part of the budget process. Mayor Mark Hammond has proposed creating five full-time positions again, saying it would not create new positions, but rather restore positions that already existed before the pandemic.
Approving the budget by a 5-2 vote, the board agreed that the community center should remain open and that the center’s five full-time staff should be part of that budget. Council members John Bergeron and Ken Wrobel voted against.
Although some of the current part-time employees may apply for the full-time positions, the city will open the positions to all qualified applicants. According to Hammond, three of the jobs are management positions and two are supervisory positions, which means anyone hired will be subject to the approval of the city council.
Hammond said he was impressed by the number of non-residents who showed up at the meeting to express their support for the center, especially since they pay higher rates to use it than Flat residents. Rock.
For the mayor, this indicated how popular the facility was with the residents of Flat Rock and the surrounding area. He said fully funding the community center is money well spent.
“Taxpayers give us money for services and taxpayers have spoken loud and clear,” Hammond said.
One of the takeaways from some of the comments Hammond heard was the feeling by many that the city needed to do a better job of marketing the Flat Rock Community Center.
“Some people said they didn’t know it was there,” Hammond said. “It’s in the middle of the woods.”
While not an immediate priority — hiring full-time employees is high on the list — Hammond said he believes the city should consider improving its efforts to market the center.
He said he’s been surrounded by “smart department heads,” so he’s eager to hear their ideas for how the city can do a better job of bringing new users to the facility.