Several years ago, a survey of residents by the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Commission indicated support for a community recreation center in the village. Armed with that information, village officials have been very slow to react to the concept.

But Matthew Joseph, who joined the Recreation Commission in late 2004, is anxious to get the ball rolling again on the idea of building an all-purpose community center. As a result, he said he’s inviting residents to the commission’s March 1 meeting for a “forum” about the possibility of building a community center.

“I’m making it my goal to build a community center,” said Joseph. “I think residents are interested as well, and we need to start getting input from residents on what they’d like a community center to offer.”

Commissioners will be specifically asking residents for things they’d like see included?”basketball courts, a theater, meeting rooms for community and senior organizations?”so they can gauge the relative importance of ideas to community members.

“Obviously, we can’t have everything,” Joseph said. “But it will be information we can take to the architects. It’ll be a starting point that can give us an idea of what the community center will cost to build and to run.”

In addition, Joseph said he will urge the commission to request money from the village in the 2006-07 fiscal year, which begins May 1, to hire an architect to complete preliminary concepts and cost estimates for constructing a community center.

“The village is in the process of doing the budget for ’06-’07, and we think it’s going to take $15,000 to have an architectural firm give us a good concrete study of what it’s going to look like and what it’s going to cost. The first step is to get that $15,000 in the budget to pay for the study.”

The Recreation Commission must ask the village board to include the money in the budget, because the Village of Brookfield’s Recreation Department is not a separate entity. Unlike a park district, which is a separate taxing body and budgets for its own operational and capital costs, Brookfield’s recreation budget is dependent on the village board for its funding.

Since 2001, overall administrative funding for Brookfield’s Recreation Department has been slashed by nearly two-thirds.

The village did issue $1.5 million in debt certificates in 2004 to help finance the purchase of land from School District 103 to expand Jaycee/Ehlert Park, but has not funded improvements for the park since that time. Brookfield has applied for a grant to help finance future park improvements, but building a community center is not part of that grant application, which is for open-space land improvements.

Joseph said the community center, if built, would likely be located in Jaycee/Ehlert Park, possibly replacing a former single-family house that the Recreation Department uses for some programming.

While it’s unclear just how much building a community center would cost the village, it would have to paid for by residents either through a bond sale or through a property tax increase.

“Once we get input from residents we’ll ask the village to issue bonds,” Joseph said. “If they don’t, then we’ll have to do research to see what it would take to form a park district.”

Joseph, whose term on the Recreation Commission ends in 2009, said that he’s not sure just how long it will take to make a community center a reality, adding, “I think this moves as fast as I make it move,” while noting he has the support of other Recreation Commission members.