Enrichment Centers board hopes to 'raise funds' for new building via levy

Cary Ashby • Sep 22, 2019 at 12:00 PM

The Enrichment Centers for Huron County has a tentative plan for a tax levy to be on the March primary ballot.

Ralph Seward, who is on the planning committee, said during Thursday’s board meeting the levy will “raise the funds” for a new building. The new senior center would be on about 4 acres of Huron County-owned land on Shady Lane Drive across from Norwalk High School. Seward said the building will be about 15,000 square feet with “a massive kitchen” so staff members and volunteers can prepare food for the Meals on Wheels program and lunches.

The Enrichment Centers has scheduled an executive board meeting for 5 p.m. Wednesday so board members can discuss the potential levy with Huron County Auditor Roland Tkach. Seward said if the board approves moving forward with the tax issue, the board will need to vote Oct. 17 to proceed with having it on the March ballot and then request the county commissioners approve it.

In late August, Seward said planning committee members met with the commissioners, who have agreed to “rekindle” the previous agreement to build on Shady Lane Drive. Also, he said the building would be on 4 acres with the opportunity to expand to another 4 acres if there is a need for expansion.

Commissioner Skip Wilde, in an interview Friday, said the agreement “was never off” and the commissioners kept it available for the Enrichment Centers as a back-up plan.

As of about early June, the plan was for the private, non-profit organization to move into and renovate the former Foodtown grocery store building across from Fisher-Titus Medical Center on Benedict Avenue. That was before then-executive director Roxanne Sandles was dismissed in connection with failing to meet unspecified expectations of the board. She has said “the commissioners have asked us to move” and in early June, the Enrichment Centers was negotiating with Fisher-Titus.

Wilde said the Foodtown plan has fallen through.

Board member Jane Nottke, during Thursday’s public meeting, said Sandles and other Enrichment Centers officials had looked at three or four existing buildings in Norwalk, but it would have been difficult to provide the necessary services there. Nottke also said Sandles wanted the new senior center to be as close as possible to the current Norwalk location, 130 Shady Lane, so it would be more centrally located in the county.

Trip coordinator Deanie Berry added that it would have “cost way too much” to renovate those buildings, especially given the needs for a kitchen.

With the new facility possibly being built beside property owned by Norwalk City Schools, Seward said it’s a wonderful opportunity for the Age Exchange program, especially if a district-wide elementary school is built there.

While addressing the possible levy, he said the commissioners may sell bonds to pay for the construction of the new building and the Enrichment Centers would use the levy money to pay off the bonds. 

In other action Thursday, board president Janice Knadler announced the board has two new members, Don Edwards and Mike Stewart, both of Norwalk. 

“So our board is back up to capacity,” Knadler said.

There are 13 board members. Co-interim director Sarah Nichelson, after the meeting, said there had been a discussion to reduce the number, but the board made the decision to stay with 13. The other co-interim director is Kaye Spoerr.

Also, Diane Metarko, who recently took over as the activities director, said she wants to have the same activities in Willard and Norwalk and wants to come to the Willard facility, 315 E. Tiffin St., more. Former activities director Lisa Gleisner resigned in early July to take another job.

“Hopefully we’ve got enough going on that everybody can join in,” Metarko said.

Finally, Nottke addressed speculation that the Willard building might be shut down.

“This facility here is not going anywhere,” the board member said. “This is staying here. … We are not taking it away.”

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