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      2014 budget decision could close doors on "The Wex"

      The 2014 Wexford County budget will be voted on within the next couple of weeks, but on Wednesday night commissioners will be meeting to discuss it and the fact that it does not include costs for operating the Wexford County Civic Center all year.

      "What's included in the recommended budget is enough funding to keep The Wex open through this ice season at the end of April," said County Administrator, Ken Hinton.

      The county has approximately $12-million to work with in 2014. Hinton says that there are more pressures this year on funding for public safety and public defenders.

      "We have an undersized jail and we have to budget $625-thousand to house excess inmates outside of the county next year," said Hinton. That's been a problem that we're working on but it is a significant pressure."

      The Wex is home for dozens of year round events including hockey games, the Governor's Breakfast, and many different expos. All of which will need to find a different venue if the doors are closed.

      Project Christmas, a community effort that helps to make Christmas possible for area families in need, is celebrating 25 years this year and relies heavily on the Wex to host their large one day event. Project Christmas is scheduled this year for December 14.

      "Every year we decorate it, we bring in all kinds of stuff, it's unbelievable actually how much stuff we can fit in there," said one of the organizers, Niki Nichols. "I'm not sure where we would actually do it if this closes because it is such a big, big event."

      Project Christmas helps provide holiday cheer for 900 families from Wexford and Missaukee Counties. Organizers say it's hard to imagine what they would do if The Wex shut down.

      "We don't want it to close," said Nichols. "We want to stay here."

      "It's important to remember that in 2012 the voters in the community were presented with an opportunity to renew the millage they passed in 2008 that funded The Civic Center and they rejected it both times," said Hinton.

      Commissioners will be meeting Wednesday at 7pm at the courthouse to present and discuss the budget. Hinton anticipates that a decision could be made on December 18, after a public hearing and vote.