Wapak councilors reveals effort to buy school properties

Faced with an opportunity to increase the number of acres in the city’s park system, a Wapakoneta City Council member unveiled a proposal to purchase the former Centennial Elementary School property.
Wapakoneta 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier presented the proposal, which requires borrowing money from the Electric Expansion Fund, to purchase the Centennial Elementary School property and the land from the Harmon Park gazebo east to the football practice field.
“When you have the Breakfast Optimists and the Wapakoneta Soccer Club willing to make the commitment they are making then they obviously want and I can see a need for additional park space,” Neumeier told the Wapakoneta Daily News after Tuesday’s Parks and Recreation Committee meeting. “This is a one-time deal and if we are going to do it then we need to do it now because they will sell it sometime so we might as well get our offer in now and see what happens.”
Parks and Recreation Committee members voted 2-1 Tuesday to recommend city councilors authorize Safety-Service Director Bill Rains to enter into negotiations with Wapakoneta City School District administrators for the purchase of the Centennial Elementary School property.
The city is offering $90,000 for the Centennial School property, which totals approximately 10 acres. The city has already entered a deal for the Harmon Park property and buildings at a cost of $35,000.
Neumeier had Mayor Rodney Metz, Auditor Gail Walter and Rains work on a proposal to finance the purchase of both properties. The city would receive $8,000 for five years from the Wapakoneta Soccer Club and $5,000 for four years from the Breakfast Optimist for the Centennial Elementary School property.
The city would borrow $94,000 from the Electric Expansion Fund to purchase the Centennial Elementary School property and the remainder owed on the Harmon Park property. The Wapakoneta Recreation Fund would pay back the Electric Expansion Fund with interest in three payments of $17,500, with a fourth year payment dropping to $12,500.
Neumeier said using Hauss-Helms Funds, which are generating $11,000 in interest for the Wapakoneta Recreation Fund when a certificate of deposit (CD) comes due in 2013, is not an option to purchase the land.
Neumeier gained support for his plan from 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee, who is a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee.
“I think this is a good way to gain extra land for the parks, and we are holding onto the Hauss-Helms money — plus we are going to pay back the money with interest,” Lee said. “We will continue to be good stewards of the land and that land is not going to open up again that close to the park.
“I think we would be remiss if we didn’t take advantage of the situation that has presented itself to us to provide a good community place for area kids to kick a soccer ball or hit a ball,” he said. “I am in favor of this, I think this proposal is sound and I want to thank the people outside of the city offices who have come together to help make this happen.”
Mike Foor, who was representing the Wapakoneta Soccer Club, and Ryan Place, who was representing the Wapakoneta Breakfast Optimists, attended the meeting and presented letters of financial support.
Foor said the group would help purchase the ground and improve the property for additional soccer fields. Place said the organization wanted approximately 1/2 acre for recreation equipment and naming rights for the park.
Wapakoneta Recreation Director Jack Hayzlett said the proximity of the Centennial Elementary School property would enable crews and equipment from Veterans Memorial Park to maintain the grounds.
Even with these assurances, Councilor-at-large Wilbur Wells, who is the third member of the committee and is Finance Committee chair, voiced his concerns with forging ahead with the purchase.
“I just don’t like how tight the Recreation Department budget is going to be with these expenditures for the next five years,” said Wells, who voted against the recommendation. “My concern is if something happens at the Wapakoneta WaterPark and it requires a large influx of cash or if something else comes up — what do we do then, where does the money come from.”
The recommendation will likely be presented to councilors at Monday’s Wapakoneta City Council meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m.