BY SHEILA R. McAFEE
City leaders have decided to hold off on asking voters’ approval for an $8 million, 30-year bond to replace the Westfield Activities Center.
The preliminary plan was to put it on the May 8 special election ballot, which is when Trenton Public Schools will seek voters’ support of a $56.9 million bond proposal to upgrade the district’s buildings and facilities.
Joann Gonyea, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said that putting two tax-related proposals on the same ballot might prove detrimental to one or both requests so City Council voted at its Jan. 8 meeting to table the Westfield request.
The decision doesn’t mean the matter is being shelved. Gonyea said city officials will continue to look at other options regarding the project.
Discussion about the aging center began two years ago during a budget session and building-by-building assessment of city facilities. There are structural issues with the building, which was last expanded in 1997, it sits on a flood plane and is land-locked at the current location on Westfield at Edsel.
“We can’t increase the footprint of the building and parking can be an issue,” Gonyea said, noting that it serves patrons of Westfield and the Veterans Memorial Library. “Rather than future patchwork fixes, we decided to conduct a cursory study about the feasibility of a new building.”
An ad hoc committee was formed and services from the architectural firm The Collaborative of Ann Arbor were retained.
Gonyea said two sites have been considered, the first located on the Detroit River and the second being the vacant field on Manning adjacent to St. Timothy Catholic Church.
“Talks with the property owner of the first site fell through and the project was placed on the back burner,” said Gonyea. “We began to look for alternative sites and found the Manning property.”
Factoring prominently in the committee’s work was the future needs of the community. Westfield is home base for the city’s Senior Program, providing a gathering space for meetings and activities. A host of community groups also rent the facility for their programs and parties.
A study by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) forecasts Trenton’s senior population to account for 35 percent of the city’s residents by 2040.
“Building on the study and current trends, we can see that the senior population will be active and seeking social activities,” said Gonyea.