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Published: 7/28/2004

Whitehouse: Athletic complex levy on deck

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Voters in the Anthony Wayne school district will face two levy requests on Tuesday to fund construction and operation of an athletic complex near Whitehouse.

The complex would include athletic fields, a water park, and hiking trails. The Anthony Wayne Area Joint Recreation District, commonly referred to as AWARD, is proposing to build the complex at a site south of State Rt. 64, east of Providence Street, north of Stiles Road and the Blue Creek Conservation Area, and west of residential property along Finzel Road.

A 0.55-mill bond issue would raise $5.55 million over 23 years to construct the project, and a 0.45-mill, 10-year operating levy would collect roughly $316,350 annually to staff the complex.

The two issues combined would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $31 each year in taxes.

"There is a tremendous need our area has for a recreational facility," said Par Ricketts, a recreation district board member and co-chairman of the Citizens for AWARD Committee. "This conceptual design is one that reaches all residents, not just the athletic-minded ones."

In recent weeks, Providence Township resident Terry Kilpatrick has been publicly opposing the levies. He has appeared at township trustee meetings and arranged to send out 7,000 flyers objecting to the tax requests.

"We are in an area where we do not have a lot of tax base other than residential. There is an end to our wallets," Mr. Kilpatrick said. "Kids are not being denied the opportunity to participate in sports. We don't see the need for the park."

Mr. Kilpatrick said he believes the recreation district has tried not to publicize the upcoming special election on Tuesday so only voters who support the project will go to the polls. Whitehouse Councilman Bill May agreed, saying that the November general election would have been a better time to put the issues on the ballot.

"I feel the only people they are focusing on to get the vote are the young couples concerned with sports issues," Mr. May said. "I'm upset by the method they are using to go to the voters."

Because the August election is a special one, AWARD must pay to put the levies on the ballot. The organization will have to pay between $9,900 and $19,800, officials at the Lucas County Board of Elections said.

If the levies pass, some of the revenue will pay for the election costs, said Cal Whewell, chairman of the recreation district. If the measures fail, the group will have to raise money for election expenses.

"We think that since this is a special election, we'll get a true gauge on what voters think about our initiative. There won't be a whole list of other issues for voters to consider," Mr. Ricketts said.

He said the recreation district is doing its best to inform voters about the special election with limited funding and volunteers.

Representatives of the recreation district have appeared at 12 public forums, he said, including Founder's Day in Waterville and township trustee, village council, and school board meetings.

Opponents of the levies have also expressed concern that Providence, Swanton, and Middleton townships, which fall partially in the Anthony Wayne district, do not have representatives on the 11-member recreation district board. The district is in portions of Lucas, Wood, and Fulton counties.

Waterville, Whitehouse, and Waterville and Monclova townships each has its own board representatives. Two school board members and one at-large representative can come from anywhere in the school district.

"People in some of these townships are not being fairly represented," Mr. Kilpatrick said. "This thing is nothing more than a bunch of soccer moms, football dads, and baseball uncles that got together and figured out how to form a legal entity that could get people to pay taxes."

In 2002, voters defeated requests to fund a similar athletic complex, with 55 percent of votes opposing the levies. After that election, the recreation district listened to suggestions from residents and decided to add a water park with a water slide and inner tube canal, a playground, and hiking trails.

If the recreation complex is built, entrance to the $900,000 water park might require a small fee, but the rest of the complex would be free for area residents, Mr. Ricketts said.

The complex would include 10 soccer fields, nine baseball and softball fields, eight T-ball fields, five tennis courts, and three youth baseball fields. Mr. Whewell has said he hopes that most youth baseball leagues would play games at the complex, freeing up other fields around the area for practices.

The recreation complex would be built on 205 acres that the Metropolitan Park District of the Toledo Area recently purchased from the Lucas County Commissioners. The Metroparks will lease the land to the recreation district for $1 each year, Mr. Ricketts said.

If voters defeat the levies next week, members of the recreation district said they might revise their plans and come back to the voters in a future election.

"It's a great project and the cost is very reasonable," Mr. Whewell said. "We feel like we've put together a good project that would be a great asset for the community we live in, not only now, but for the future."



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