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Walnutport pledges support to NL Community Center

Published April 25. 2019 02:01PM

Walnutport has agreed to pledge its financial support to the Northern Lehigh Community Center.

On a 6-1 vote, with council President William Turk opposed, council recently approved Option 1 of the business plan for the center.

That option calls for the borough’s contribution to the Northern Lehigh Recreation Authority to be $15,525 in 2020, $25,875 in 2025, and results in a median contribution of $21,563.

Slatington’s contributions would be $31,740 in 2020 and $52,900 in 2025, for a median contribution of $44,083. Washington Township’s would be $49,999 in 2020, and $83,325 in 2025, for a median contribution of $69,439.

The option also calls keeping the Northern Lehigh Recreation as is, with a multi-municipal partnership between the three municipalities, and includes the construction and operation of the new community center facility.

This option also includes hiring a part-time bookkeeper in 2020, and a part-time Recreation Supervisor once the center is in operation in 2023.

Before the vote, Councilwoman Patrice Hunsicker, who serves as president of the recreation authority, told council it needed to make a decision of some sort.

“We need to come up with a plan for all three municipalities to agree to move forward,” Hunsicker said.

Hunsicker said that Northern Lehigh School District is a huge proponent of the community center.

“The school district wants to work with the community center,” she said. “(Superintendent) Matt Link has been absolutely phenomenal; he’s been very active with us.”

Turk noted that he’s lived in the borough for 48 years.

“If we do anything, we should have it on the agenda to have the people vote on it,” Turk said.

Resident Ricky Smith said he believes the community center can only be a positive thing for the younger generation.

“It’s a positive movement,” Smith said. “You got to give them something to do.”

Smith said there are numerous benefits associated with the center.

“They’re going to be at one place,” he said. “I personally can’t see how this borough could not be committed when Slatington and Washington Township are.”

Turk questioned how the younger generation would be able to “go from here to there.”

“I’d rather see it be voted on by the general public,” he said.

Kristie Wilk, of Washington Township, said she has children in the district, and that they go elsewhere for recreational activities “because there’s nothing here for them to do.”

In February, the final in a series of feasibility study meetings for the 16,000-square-foot community center at 545 W. Church St. in Slatington was held.

The community center has been in the works for about 20 years.

In August, the Northern Lehigh Recreation Authority engaged Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site (KBA+S), and their consultant, Ballard*King (B*K), to complete a feasibility study for a new center.

The site currently contains about a 9,600-square-foot building shell that was completed in 2010. No other work has been completed to date at the 3.1-acre site.

From the late 1990s through the early 2000s, a group of volunteers raised more than $600,000 to purchase land and garner support, which allowed them to construct the shell of the community center facility in 2012.

Since then, the group of volunteers has turned to the local municipalities for assistance.

The Northern Lehigh Recreation Authority was formed in 2016 and consists of Slatington, Walnutport and Washington Township, with a mission to complete the facility.

For more information on the community center, visit www.nlcommunitycenter.com.

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