Mission task force will look at community center’s operating subsidy

The Sylvester Powell Community Center in Mission will be the subject of a task force studying its operation.

A Mission task force to look at the operation of the Sylvester Powell Jr. Community Center is ready to get started after a delay while the 2015 city budget was hammered out. But, the number of people on the task force and how they will be selected was a topic of some discussion by the council Wednesday.

Mayor Steve Schowengerdt announced the task force earlier this year and named Councilor Jennifer Cowdry as its chair. The only other members named so far are Ted Stone and Suzie Genova. The task force is charged with reviewing opportunities to increase the self-sufficiency of the community center. The city currently has a cost-recovery goal of 80 percent of expenses, excluding capital costs.

The mayor does not want a “huge committee,” City Administrator Gerry Vernon said, adding that there is “room to add interested members.” The Johnson Drive parking task force has about 16 members and “took all comers,” its chair, Dave Shepard, said. “My hope is that it (the community center task force) is not limiting.” Cowdry asked other councilors to submit names that she would forward to the mayor. She also noted the meetings will be open to the public. Other councilors suggested that interested residents have a chance to apply, perhaps by posting a notice at the center.

The community center was opened in 1999 with 50,000 square feet and at a cost of $3.4 million. Only $1.1 million was financed by bonds and the remainder was taken from this city’s large reserves at the time, dropping them by 79 percent. A $3.8 million expansion was completed in 2004 adding 80,000 square feet.

A 2006 city report that compared the operation and subsidies with other area community centers which led to the 80 percent recovery goal. That report concluded that the “community center will never be 100 percent self-sufficient.” It went on to say that “the appropriate subsidy is hard to answer.” Finance Director Laura Smith said the 2006 report will provide a foundation for the task force work to update the benchmarks. The task force is expected to begin its work this month.