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Home Stretch in Sight for Community First Proposal

Oct 28, 2017

The concept of the Community First project in Macomb became public a couple years ago. The partners believe they’re now close to deciding whether that concept will become a reality.

“I think we have all felt a little bit of a roller coaster ride where we think things are on the upswing and then all of a sudden we get together and the news isn’t quite what we expected and we think it’s waning a bit,” said Macomb School Superintendent Patrick Twomey about the lengthy process.

“I think we’re on the top side of perhaps the last part of the ride in terms of where we’re at in progress.”

Community First is a proposed collaboration between the school district, the city, the YMCA of McDonough County, and McDonough District Hospital.  They’re talking about building a complex that would include:

  •  A middle school
  • A multi-purpose recreation center
  • An indoor and partially outdoor aquatic facility
  • A warm water therapy facility for rehabilitative services

“We are excited to be able to partner up with people in the community to provide something that’s a quality of life issue in the city of Macomb,” said Carla Teslicka, CEO of the Y.  She added she’s still interested in public input and is willing to talk to anyone about the project.

Mayor Mike Inman credited Teslicka with originally pitching the idea for the project after realizing several entities in the community had needs and could potentially save money by collaborating.

“(A project) Where an economy of scale is brought into play and there is the sharing of basic services like water and sewer and other infrastructure needs,” Inman said.

“That whole process has gotten us to the point where we’re close to being able to take this to our respective boards and saying, ‘This is where we’re at and we’ve done our due diligence.’”

He said that due diligence included visiting several facilities in the region to research public-private partnerships.

The partners are working with the consulting firm Risinger and Associates. Risinger’s original design was for a building that would have cost around $28 million.  The partners agreed that was too much so the consultants are now working on a scaled back concept.       

The school district and the city are both applying for low-interest loans from the USDA. That would give them money upfront to pay for their shares of the cost of building and equipping the facility.

The cost would be divvied up based on how much of the building each partner needs. For example, if the middle school portion ends up being 60% of the building, the school district would pay 60% of the cost.

The partners said they have not chosen a site and declined to comment on potential sites.  Twomey said multiple sites remain under consideration – none of which are currently owned by any of the partners – and Inman said it would not be prudent to reveal potential sites.

“If we were to disclose a handful of locations, the price of those locations would likely increase exponentially given the fact that often units of government are perceived to have bottomless pockets,” Inman said. 

The boards for each of the partners will ultimately need to decide whether to proceed.