Arguing to change Indian Trail’s first impression

INDIAN TRAIL – If Indian Trail is to transform into the shining star of Union County, the practice of conducting town business in a converted garage is an act some local leaders would like to end.

Town council members have resumed discussions on building a community center in Indian Trail that would include a town hall for Indian Trail employees. A fund was created in 2004 to save money for the creation of a community center, according to town manager Joe Fivas, and the fund currently has $1.4 million that can only be used for the construction of such a facility.

Around 30 people work for the town, many of whom are housed in a converted garage building across Blythe Boulevard from the shed-sized building town meetings are held in and the slightly larger building that now hosts the Indian Trail Cultural Arts Center.

Councilman Chris King would like to find a new home for government but sees a community center as much more than just a town hall. He envisions the facility as a place for senior events, a spot for a post office if the town loses its current post office to federal budget cuts, a satellite office for the Department of Veterans Affairs and the North Carolina Department of Transportation and perhaps home for an advanced technology center for a local community college.

The center could go a long way in an effort to rebrand Indian Trail in addition to the town’s two new parks – also proposed by King – and a number of road and sidewalk projects. The councilman said it’s important Indian Trail embraces its position as the largest town in Union County and put the projects in place to show the town in a positive light.

“I honestly feel there is a negative perception on our town,” King said. “A step in the right direction to start to move on from those negative perceptions is to erect a new community center. It’s a cornerstone of a town, and right now our cornerstone is a converted garage.”

King acknowledges the cost of the project – between $3 million and $5 million – is a hurdle to getting the support he needs. Paying off the bond for the two new parks projects is already responsible for roughly half of the town’s capital reserve fund. The fund was created during last year’s budget talks when King proposed a 4-cent tax increase in part to pay for parks. King said he opted to push for parks first because the town had just narrowly voted down a park bond the year before.

King is in favor of financing the community center project on a five-year agreement, which would leave the town paying around $800,000 the first year of the term, decreasing over the five years. A longer agreement would mean smaller payments, but more total money over time. He is not in favor of another bond.

He’s yet to see what kind of support he’ll get from others on council, though Councilwoman Darlene Luther expressed her wishes for a center at a recent council meeting. Councilman David Waddell is against spending money on the project, as well as creating more space for Indian Trail to grow government. Mayor Pro Tem David Cohn is on the fence, though he feels it’s a project the town should put on the back burner for now.

“I’d love to see a town with a community center, town hall – just a real functional building where we could have something for elderly people and just a great place,” Cohn said. “I think we have a lot of stuff going on in town right now with the parks and everything else we have going on. I’d like to see us concentrate on (a community center) in a few years, but just not right now.”

King said he’ll soon ask council for their agreement on where a community center could go. He’d like to see it added to the under-construction Chestnut Park. If King gets that far, he’d then like to see some of the $1.4 million in the community center fund used to hire a company to start on designs for a building. He envisions a center similar to what Matthews and Mint Hill have, something that will give visitors to town a better impression of Indian Trail.

“We already have a town hall?” King said, anticipating arguments against the community center. “Yeah, we do. But it’s basically a renovated building just for the purpose of saying we have a town hall. … For the out-of-towners who have never been to Indian Trail but are here for a presentation or something … their perception of our government is that we conduct official town business out of a converted garage. I have a fundamental issue with that.

We need to get past that. We have to have a town hall, period.”

The community center is not included in this year’s budget, which was presented earlier this month to town council. A public forum has been scheduled for May 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the town’s civic building, on Navajo Trail, so residents can give feedback on the proposed budget.

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