Times-News Editor Alison Smith asked for post-COVID ideas. I took the request to mean what did staying-at-home teach you about what is possible and required to build our city for the future. As always, I have ideas. Certainly, Twin Falls has become my place in the world. After sampling widely, I cannot think of anywhere I would rather be every day. The concern I have is that the adaptations we have been asked to make for public health are being dismissed. At least part of the reason, I believe, is that we have mentally divided the fifty thousand plus of us into “people I choose to care about” and “others.” Perhaps it is also “people I understand” and “others I don’t.”
Something that has been proposed and discussed in the past needs to be advanced in priority. We need a robust community center. We need a place to gather to meet, to play, to learn, and to exchange ideas. Much of the thinking has been about a facility geared toward our indoor recreation needs, but we need to be bolder in our dreams.
For fifty years, the cultural center of Twin Falls has been the Fine Arts complex at CSI. Community gatherings are spread out between the library and hospitality venues. In recent years, the arts center auditorium on the canyon rim has been added. They are busy places. A community center would not replace them. It would not replace school facilities that are often useful for neighborhood events. What a center could be, however, is a crossroads. It could be a place where we meet while going to separate interests. Especially, it could appeal to young and older residents. It would be convenient for people who live in all corners of the city and county as a central point of contact. It could be used for more hours than smaller places can afford the staffing to maintain. It also might be considered in these times to be politically neutral.
There is always concern for funding a public facility. Twin Falls foolishly turned down money for the fire department recently. Yes, forty percent of our families are income constrained, living without assets to be used in an emergency. Some of them are living on fixed incomes and can no longer earn more money. But the rest of us would probably not be harmed by paying a bit more property tax in exchange for something that would enhance our city in a tangible way. With a wide range of possible uses, our taxes would go toward something everyone could use weekly, monthly or at least yearly.
With creative fundraising, tax dollars could be supplemented. Perhaps someone would like to furnish a room or a basketball court. Some of the activities would cost with a sliding scale in place. Close enough to downtown, clubs could meet and then dine elsewhere. The public comment event that was held featured numerous ideas. Certainly, whatever is done should plan for future expansion. Driving around the center city, I have noted empty lots and moldering buildings. There must be space for the community to come together and forge closer ties while participating in favorite activities.
This is a project that can and should be done soon. Waiting longer could mean that our community will grow to a size where one facility would be too small. Everyone I know who is interested in the future of our city feels that it is an imperative to build our community inclusively. A center would be an exciting addition to our superb Plaza and our Main Avenue improvements. Along with our trails, Rock Creek park, our climbing facilities, our martial arts, our County Historical Museum, Centennial Park, the river activities and our BASE jumping, our city would become known as a place where there is always something to do with other friendly people.
Linda Brugger, retired from the Air Force, leaning Democrat and community activist can be reached at IdahoAuthor@outlook.com. She welcomes feedback.
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