BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — A major refurbishing of the Whitehouse Park shelter house quickly rose to the top of council’s wish list during an April 14 Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting.
Open for events like the tree lighting and Cherry Fest chicken dinner sales, the building is also rented out to residents. Without windows, a kitchen or heat, the facility has limited use.
“We can convert the doors to bay windows, put in a new floor and heat,” said administrator Jordan Daugherty. “It’s a nice-looking building right in the center of town. It needs new life.”
Built in 1955, the structure has had some renovations over the years, including interior painting by village staff a few years ago.
“If we’re going to leave it there, it needs updating. It’s very dark,” said Louann Artiaga.
Currently residents can rent the building for family reunions, birthdays and other gatherings at no cost. The addition of a kitchen and HVAC would necessitate some sort of deposit to ensure the place is cleaned after each use, agreed council members.
This is one capital project that makes sense to go forward with sooner, said Rebecca Conklin Kleiboe-mer.
“We’ve seen evidence that all the aesthetic improvements we’ve made bring people in,” she said. “People will want to come together at the park. We need to be with each other again.”
Council member Richard Bingham also noted that data shows Whitehouse has an average of four people per household, which means many of those homes have children.
“Kids want to do things – so parks will be huge,” he said.
While a splash pad has been on Conklin Kleiboe-mer’s list for several years – and at one point was envisioned in a downtown design as being near the bike path at Providence Street – council doesn’t support the idea.
Bill May noted that the placement is a safety hazard because of its proximity to SR 64.
The cost and location could be addressed by using temporary or portable splash pads in the park to give kids something to do and test out the concept, Bingham said.
“If we deal with water, we deal with the health department and have a water bill,” said council president Bob Keogh. “Personally, I’d like to sit back and see what Metroparks are going to do with the big waterpark behind our building.”
The Metroparks might offer paddle sports and fishing, but Whitehouse residents want a splash pad or swimming pool, Conklin Kleiboemer said.
“It’s the largest request we have from the community,” she said.
With many of the members’ wish list items focusing on the parks, Conklin Kleiboemer asked that council establish a separate Parks and Recreation Committee that would include both citizens and council representatives.
It’s been almost a decade since council voted to get rid of separate committees and discuss all business in a COW format, with the exception of the Tree Commission, the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals. Two years ago, council also agreed to form an Economic Development Committee with community members. That committee is embarking on a community survey that Keogh said will help determine what residents want in their parks.
Council members agreed that forming a Parks and Recreation Committee would be a good start.
“I think the more community involvement we have, the more we’ll be able to determine how much community support we have for these projects,” Artiaga said.