North Judson Council Votes to Proceed with Community Center Project, Delays Additional Decisions

NJCommunityCenterEfforts to build a community center in North Judson continue, as town officials consider a potential location. Organizers had previously planned to apply this week for grant funding from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to help cover the cost of building a new community center on donated land north of the town’s fire station.

However, the current owner decided to charge the town $25,000 for the rest of the land, causing organizers to reevaluate the site. Since a grant application is tied to a specific location, the town decided last month to wait until the next round of grant applications in the fall.

One alternate site that was proposed was on town-owned land on Lane Street, but some organizers are against this idea, citing a lack of space for a parking lot and the number of dilapidated buildings in the area. During Monday’s town council meeting, council member John Rowe spoke in favor of the Lane Street site, arguing that it would be a chance to help boost Downtown North Judson. “My concern is I just think that I like things to be in town,” he said. “I think we need to make the town – in town – look better than it does. I mean, it’s dilapidated, everywhere you look. Why are we going to add here, add there, add here? It doesn’t make any sense to me. I think we need to fix town. This is the attraction.” Project organizers say another site, closer to the town’s park, may also soon be available.

However, North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins told the town council that if the project’s going to proceed, council members are going to have to start making decisions, “If we’re going to do this in the fall round, it has to be done and a letter of intent has to be done in July, so we cannot let this sit for very long. We still have to keep working with it. The income surveys are almost finished, which we need to use for that. They kind of put a hold on it because we didn’t know exactly where we were going to go or what was going on with that.”

She says that in the two weeks that ads ran in the newspaper asking for donations, the $3,050 was raised. However, since the project is being delayed, Collins wanted to make sure that fund-raising efforts should continue, especially considering the fact that once money is donated into the Community Center Fund, donors won’t get it back, even if the center isn’t built. She says a lot of work’s been done on the project, but it won’t be able to move ahead without a clear plan, “Don’t say you’re pushing it to the fall round because I’m doing a lot of work for this for nothing. That’s where I have a problem. So if, financially, it’s not going to go any further, we need to tell these people not to keep donating their money.”

Collins says there does appear to be a demand for a community center in North Judson, noting that residents often ask about renting the fire station, which is not set up to host events. She adds that while a North Judson-Wayne Township community center would be much simpler than the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center in Knox, it would provide a space for people to use. “It’s a way to keep people in town instead of going to Valpo, going to Knox,” Collins said. “It would help the local businesses. And to be honest, when we met with our OCRA representative, he said ‘If you want to try to boost your economy down here in North Judson, you have to get something that would raise your assessed value, or at least maintain your assessed value because it keeps declining. And the only way we’re going to fund the school budget, the only way we’re going to fund the town is to keep our assessed values the way they are, so that we can have budgets.”

Many council members seemed satisfied with the idea of buying the additional land to build the community center behind the fire station, noting that the necessary studies on the site have already been completed. Also, town was already required to spend $23,000 on the project for the local share of the grant. However, council members decided to wait until their next meeting to officially choose a location. They did vote to continue moving ahead with the project, and fund raising will also proceed.