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A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A borough-owned rec center for West Chester?

West Chester Borough commissioned a survey last year to see if residents would like the borough to open a recreation center. Borough officials were motivated to do this because the YMCA had announced plans to vacate it's Chestnut Street building, leaving the borough without a centrally located rec facility.

Although the YMCA recently announced plans to move some of its programs back to the Chestnut Street building, those programs will cater mainly to children. In light of this, some borough council members are still pondering the West Chester rec center question. I will have reported on this tomorrow.

The results from the rec center survey, which I glossed over in my article, are interesting and contain subtleties that I just couldn't find room for. To read a good summary of the survey results, click on the link at the end of this post.

For those not willing to commit themselves to pouring through pie charts, here are a few things about the survey that really struck me:

1) Of the respondents, 92 percent were white, 60 percent were women, 66 percent were over 45 years old, 64 percent came from households of two or fewer people, and 48 percent had household incomes greater than $75,000. Of the 1500 households the survey was sent to, only 304 responses came in (which was 4 responses more than the consultant's target of 300). Keep in mind that the demographic profile of survey respondents does not quite match West Chester Borough's demographic profile. The borough contains far more non-white and low income people than are represented in the survey results.

2) Quote from the survey: "A high percentage (57%) of respondents indicated that existing [recreation] facilities only meet some of their needs. This is a high response rate as most surveys are in the 40% range for this question. This indicates a lower level of satisfaction with existing facilities."

3) Quote from the survey: "Respondents are not willing to support a property tax increase. This was a strong negative response compared to other surveys but considering the economic times it is surprising that it was not higher. It is important to remember that the project will not be going before the voters anytime soon so the economic situation could (and should) improve in the future."

The survey's conclusion:

"The overall response to the concept of developing a community recreation center is fair. Respondents indicate that they would use a new center and be willing to pay user fees for a center that contained the amenities they prefer. The facility will have to be close to self sufficient operationally and passing a tax initiative to fund the project will be difficult. Considering the really poor economic times that were in place at the time that the survey was administered it is not surprising that there was a negative response to tax funding.

"Looking at the overall tone of the survey, continuing with the feasibility study for a possible future community recreation center in West Chester Borough is reasonable but with the realization that there will be funding challenges and the community will probably not be willing to consider tax funding until the current economic conditions improve."

To read the whole survey, click on the link below.



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