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The concept of establishing a community center is one that has been batted around in conversations for several years now. Leaders, particularly those in Taylorsville, realize the need for creating a place where families could gather to socialize, learn and play – but making those dreams a reality has always come down to a lack of dollars and cents. Hopes for such a venue have been placed at the mercy of some philanthropic organization, because even with new taxes, the city and county both say they are struggling just to meet current obligations.
Recently, we have learned that the Spencer County Extension is working on a plan to build a bigger and better facility. Board members say that the current space behind Settlers Center can not contain the number of services they provide the community with a few offices, small kitchen and meeting room. As the extension council plans to spend nearly $750,000 in taxpayers’ money, the question is not if the building will be built, but when.
During a recent extension board meeting, the phrase, community center, was again batted around. But a few on the extension council were offended by the term. This building was supposed to be an extension center, not a community center, some said.
According to the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension website, the goal of this service is to provide educational programming in five key areas:
• sustaining agriculture and forestry
• protecting the environment
• maintaining viable communities
• developing responsible youth, and
• developing strong, healthy and safe families.
Those last three points sound a lot like the goals of a community center.
In addition to the extension council’s plan for a larger meeting room, educational kitchen space, a community garden and outdoor facilities for 4-H show animals – why not incorporate other features for the community-at-large? Perhaps the council should consider an indoor recreational facility or maybe even a swimming pool that would provide a place for people in the community to congregate. Not only would such additions provide opportunities for learning new skills and developing healthy bodies, but it would provide the extension center with the potential for reaching an even greater number of individuals in the community. Once inside the new facility, individuals could learn about other educational resources provided by, say, 4-H or the Homemakers. Such additions would only add to the number of people being served by the extension service.
If the cost of staffing these facilities would be burdensome for the extension office, perhaps the city and county would be willing to pick up the bill. Paying the wages of a few part-time people would certainly be much more cost effective than trying to come up with the funds to build their own community center.
This is the time when the extension council and government leaders need to consider the bigger picture. Don’t just consider what is best for the extension service, but rather what is best for the community that you serve.