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Shared-use facility in works

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MILLCREEK — A new East Millcreek Community Center has been long in coming, but if everything works out, the center will combine county services in ways that are being called unprecedented.

The East Millcreek county library, recreation center, fire station and Evergreen Park facilities will soon undergo major changes to update and improve services to township residents. Plans have been under way to renovate all four locations for years, but with the recent announcement that the fire station will move to a new location on 3300 South, ideas for a new shared-use facility featuring a library, recreation center and senior center are beginning to solidify.

"It's very cool, very out-of-the-box thinking," said Leslie Riddle, chairwoman of the East Millcreek Community Council. "We only have the space for one facility so we need shared areas."

Riddle said residents are interested in a place where all ages are welcome and not segregated. That kind of center will facilitate true community building, she said.

The county has separate agencies that handle libraries, recreation and senior services. Typically these agencies demand their own facilities to ensure the needs of their patrons are met. It's been a bit of a struggle to work out compromises and sacrifices, but the result will be a community center that, as far as she knows, is unprecedented in the county.

"There's no more room we can buy in that part of the world," said Rita Lund, East Millcreek Township representative for the county. "No one has gotten everything they want, which means it's a good compromise."

The Community Council is currently reviewing two plans — one featuring two smaller buildings and another that is one large building. One of the major issues in the decision is the possibility of noise disturbing library patrons. The firehouse and current building sites will likely be turned into parking and the new facility will be slightly farther south abutting the park, which will also undergo improvements.

"We want to make the park part of the overall plan and provide a place where residents can say, 'This is our main place, our downtown,"' Lund said.

The Community Council will meet within the next couple of weeks to make final decisions and then a few months later the County Council should have the project approved and designs started, Lund said.

The Unified Fire Authority will build a new fire station to service East Millcreek on the site of a former clock shop on 3300 South and 1900 East. The current station on Evergreen Avenue is too small and too old for their needs, said Capt. Wade Russell. They hope to break ground in late summer or early fall and the new station should be ready within a year to 18 months after that. It's a good move, he said, because stations are supposed to be a certain distance from each other and the current site is too close to Holladay and Olympus Cove stations. The 3300 South location will provide the "perfect buffer."

"It's an exciting time for us. We'll be able to serve the public in a more timely manner with the new location," Russell said.

E-mail: akirk@desnews.com