Community center meeting generates ideas, nothing concrete

Aaron K. Nelson anelson@civitasmedia.com

July 23, 2014

PRESTONSBURG — Community members gathered at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg to join an ongoing discussion about the placement, capabilities, and funding of a planned Prestonsburg community center.

Mayor Jerry Fannin led the talks, opening the floor to recommendations for features that citizens hope to see included in the center. One popular idea was swimming pools, particularly smaller therapeutic pools that would be more affordable to install and maintain.

Fannin suggested that by designing the building with the ground floor as a large parking garage-type area, it would be possible to clear the space out for large-scale events when the weather is not cooperative, like the Floyd County Farmers Market or various gun or trade shows.

City councilman Les Stapleton assured those in attendance that the city government has been doing thorough research on the project’s finances, and he says such a community center would no doubt be at least self-sustaining and at best profitable, taking in enough money to pay its bills. The real cost for the city would be in financing the original construction.

Jeff Speaks, a consultant on the matter, said that roughly half the cost could be covered if the city is awarded various grants, though some of them, such as those offered by the Appalachian Regional Commission, are rather competitive. Speaks says the number one issue concerning both grant foundations and loan agencies is sustainability. No one wants to finance a project that will be bankrupt or abandoned within a couple years.

Floyd County Judge-Executive-Elect Ben Hale says the county will do what it can to help the city finance the project, since the center will serve patrons from around the county, and hopefully even generate visitors from surrounding counties.

All parties involved agreed that discussion sessions like this one are the best course of action, to make sure the center fits the needs of the community and those in charge are diligent in the project’s handling.