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City, OVEC agree to fund City Center research

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Other two primary entities to decide next year

By Scotty McDaniel

Leon Mooneyhan is making his rounds to raise $50,000 of project planning money -- $12,500 from each of the four major entities he’d like to have involved in the planning of a downtown City Center in Shelbyville.

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This proposed city center, first introduced to the community back in September, would offer vast new conference and theater space at the corner of 8th and Main Streets and would incorporate all existing facilities except the downtown branch of Citizens Union Bank.

The “seed money” that Mooneyhan is requesting would help pay for lawyers and engineers who could help with the early advice and design for the project.

Last week Mooneyhan brought his request for planning money to three of the four entities -- the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC) board, Shelbyville City Council and the Shelby County School Board.

Both OVEC and the city council agreed to present the $12,500 apiece for planning.

“The OVEC board approved what I see as the next step [Wednesday],” Mooneyhan said. “There is no conference space in Shelbyville for conferences that would have 100 people or more. This would allow larger conferences here and not have to take them to Lexington and Louisville. In addition, it breaks up and gives us space for smaller meetings.”

Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty said the city council unanimously accepted the request Thursday for some of the same reasons, but that's also because of the economic impact such a center could have.

“Naturally, it’d be nice to have small conferences and conventions, and also it will blend into the block there,” Hardesty said. “It’d be a really good anchor for that end of town. This could be a catalyst for other things in that area and bring more people into the city.”

Mooneyhan, himself a former superintendent, presented the same request to the school board Thursday, and the board replied to the idea optimistically, though the fund request will not be voted on until its meeting in January.

“One idea is the use of the facility for productions for the schools -- theatrical, musical productions,” he said. “There will be a number of other potential uses that could be discussed during the planning phase. For example, we could build some classrooms there.”

He said middle school band and orchestra could also use the acoustics of such a performance space.

Superintendent James Neihof said, though he doesn’t want the school district to have any ownership of the city center facility, he does support its development.

“At this point I’m clearly in support of participating in the development of the planning,” he said.

Board member Sam Hinkle justified his support of the facility by stating the need for it in the Shelby Community.

“I just know that, by my math, more children in this community participate in theater programs than any other activity,” he said.

The final entity, the county, will not look at the request until next year, when it determines its budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

“I’ve got the recommendation to set some money aside for Dr. Mooneyhan,” County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said.

Mooneyhan said he is pleased with the reaction received from the four entities, and he looks forward to moving forward with the project.

“We’ll need to do the planning necessary in terms of design with the input of the entities, and be thinking about how the agreement would be structured among all the participants,” he said.

“It looks promising.”