Turner Hall
Turner Hall
COLUMBUS GROVE — During Monday’s meeting, members of the Columbus Grove Village Council engaged in an animated discussion regarding Turner Hall; it’s value value to the community.
Councilor Greg Heckel opened the debate.
“We got the financial report on Turner Hall, and it continues to dwindle,” Heckel said. “I know there was no activity during the COVID year, but at some point we have to identify a plan to do something. Renting it out is not working. We’re still paying out more than we’re taking in.”
Heckel then suggested taking the issue to village residents, query them as to their level of interest, rather than continue funding a project without a known value.
The issue of funding elicited a rapid-fire exchange between Heckel and Council President Skyler Mayberry.
“What happens if we stop funding it?” Mayberry asked.
“We make a decision what to do with it,” Heckel replied.
Mayberry: “What’s your plan?”
Heckel: “Get rid of it.”
Mayberry: “How?”
Heckel: “Me, personally? A while back when we still had the money, I’d say, ‘Tear it down.’”
Following a pregnant silence during which council members absorbed Heckel’s statement, the conversation turned to who — if anyone — was interested in maintaining the building as an entertainment venue. Councilor Brian Schroeder stated that while initial interest was high, with a significant number of residents attending meetings and showing support, those numbers rapidly dwindled.
Although acknowledging the basic truth of Schroeder’s statement, Mayor Ken Wright also pointed out a counter stance.
“When it first started out, you’re correct, and it dwindled down,” Wright said. “But right before the pandemic set in, there was a small group, but a very active group. And that’s one of the reason why there’s a sign out front and some things were starting to happen. The group who was working on it didn’t get a fair shake because things shut down about the time they were trying to get things off the ground.”
Schroeder remarked on the possible alternatives to in-person gatherings to discuss the future of the building — zoom meetings and teleconferences — and questioned why such hadn’t taken place. He further expressed the personal belief that the building was, and is, rarely utilized.
“At some point, and I know it’s not completely open yet, but it’s trending in that direction,” Schroeder said. “You can’t wait until everything’s completely open and then decide to start meeting and scheduling these things. I guess I hope it happens, but I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Councilor Gretchen Staley weighed in, commenting, from her persepective, Turner Hall falls under village parks and recreation opportunities.
“Not everything in the village that’s recreation has to be a ball diamond,” Staley said. “And (Turner Hall) provides us with a venue for potential recreation activities.”
Councilor Chad Irwin, returning to Heckel’s earlier statement, expressed an interest in determining village residents’ overall interest in maintaining Turner Hall as an entertainment venue, as part of the village’s Parks and Recreation department.
“We’re giving funds to Turner Hall,” Heckel said. “When we find out it’s going to cost taxpayers money, we really have to find a way to gather that information from the community. Ask the question, ‘Is this something you really want to support?’ A majority. We’ve got to go to the community and find out if they want to support it. If they say no, then we have to make a decision as to whether we give it away, we sell it, or we tear it down.”
Staley pointed out the same question could be asked of any of the village’s public venues, a sentiment Mayberry echoed.
“It’s Parks and Recreation,” Mayberry said. “We already have a levy for Parks and Recreation. Not all recreation is a ball diamond, or a swimming pool, or a walking path.”
Heckel countered the building didn’t come to the village under the umbrella of Parks and Recreation, adding that, now, it is so, as monies donated by congregants First Presbyterian Church for maintaining the building is running out, and will soon require village funding.
Heckel and Mayberry both argued none of the village’s recreational opportunities are profitable, that all require village funding.
“But who wants it?” Heckel countered.
“There are some of us who do,” Mayberry said. “I have zero use for most of the parks in this town. Hall Avenue is all well and good for people who are using that, and I need it to be there because it is a draw for our community. But I get zero personal use out of Hall Avenue. But I get personal use out of Turner Hall, and there other people like me. For people who are using it, it has value.”
“And for those of us who don’t, and have to pay for it, it doesn’t make sense,” Heckel said.
“Then that’s your perspective, because I don’t view it that way with Hall Avenue,” Mayberry said. “With Hall Avenue, I don’t view it as my cross to bear that I have to fund someone else’s softball and soccer program. I think that’s all part of being in a community; that you offer those things for people with different interests, who are at a different stage in their life. And that brings a community value to have options.”
The debate as to the merits of Turner Hall wrapped up with council agreeing to seriously revisit the issue next spring, though Heckel asserted he will continue to raise the issue in the meantime.
In other business, council:
• approved the appointment of Mitchell Douglas as a fire fighter with the village fire department.
• briefly discussed the planting of decorative trees in the village. Vance informed council of a potential blight to pine trees and the village’s plans to spray as a deterent.
• briefly discussed an alert system for village residents which will piggyback on that of the school district, scheduled to be in place on July 1. Residents wishing to receive alerts from the village may visit the school district’s website to activate the system for personal use.
The next regular meeting of the Columbus Grove Village Council is sheduled for Monday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m.