The De Soto School District and city of De Soto have joined forces to see if it’s feasible to build a community civic center within the city limits.
The school district received a $25,250 grant from the Jefferson Foundation that will be used to pay the Rome Group of St. Louis to complete a feasibility study for the project,
De Soto School District Superintendent Josh Isaacson and
De Soto City Manager Todd Melkus said.
“The foundation provides the much-needed funding to conduct the research,” Isaacson said. “It is to examine the viability of creating a complex.”
Isaacson and Melkus said an approximately 3-acre piece of property the school district owns on Vineland School Road between Vineland Elementary School and the North Park complex is being considered for the center.
“It is a large area, and we feel it will be an ideal location,” Melkus said.
The grant for the study was one of 95 the foundation awarded in this year’s first cycle of grant-giving. The Jefferson Foundation doles out grant money twice a year, with checks being sent out June 1 and Dec. 1 to numerous agencies that help serve the needs of the county.
In this year’s first cycle, the foundation awarded $2,400,579 in grants, the foundation announced.
The money the foundation bestowed on the De Soto School District will allow a small committee that formed about a year ago to truly study the feasibility of building a civic center in De Soto, school and city officials said.
Isaacson said he and Melkus are on the committee, along with John Freeman, a former De Soto School District employee and longtime De Soto resident; Jim Thomas, a longtime De Soto resident and businessman; and Deana Pope, the district’s technology learning and communication support specialist.
They have been meeting for about a year to discuss the potential project.
Melkus said no tax money has been spent for the research and discussion about the potential civic center. “The grant means no money will be spent by the city or school district,” Melkus said.
Isaacson and Melkus said the Rome Group is expected to start its study in June and be finished by September. Along with projected costs to build the center, the study will look at costs to maintain the facility.
The group also will survey residents in De Soto and the surrounding area to find out what they would want to see in a civic center. A website, desotocivic.org, was expected to be available this week that will provide additional information about the proposal, Pope said in a May 22 email.
“It would be tough to think that just the city residents would be able to sustain a facility like this,” Melkus said. “Even though the facility would be located within the city limits of De Soto, it would by no means be strictly just for city residents. It would be for anybody who would like to use the facility.”
Isaacson said early proposals for what amenities the civic center might offer include an indoor pool, indoor track and a space for community activities. It also could serve as a storm shelter. He said the civic center pool could help offset the loss of the pool at the Jefferson College Hillsboro campus. That pool was closed in May 2019 after the college said it could not afford the cost to repair the pool.
“A huge piece of what they are looking at doing is a wellness center,” Jefferson Foundation executive vice president Missy Endres said. “There could be a workout facility and a pool. That is where the connection to us is, the health pieces.”