06/01/06 — Plan for recreation center to stay on hold

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Plan for recreation center to stay on hold

By Renee Carey
Published in News on June 1, 2006 1:50 PM

Lack of adequate funding and indecision about location have left recreation center designers at a standstill.

City Manager Joe Huffman said Wednesday the project has lost some momentum but is still a priority -- planners are simply taking their time to do the job right on every level.

"It doesn't bother me that it slowed down," he said. "I'd rather do it right."

Huffman added that with the City Hall addition recently completed and work continuing next door to that facility, it is good to take a step back and make sure all of the projects are affordable and practical to take on at once.

"The city is doing a great deal," he said. "And I think we need to be cautious about how we move forward."

When looking at the big picture, he added, two questions must be answered before the project can move forward -- how to pay for the building and where to put it.

Huffman said urban designer Allison Platt, recently hired by the city to put together the downtown master plan, does not think the planned location on Center Street works. Now, planners are looking into other options -- and that takes time.

"The delay people are experiencing, I appreciate it and I understand it," Huffman said.

Recreation and Parks Director Neil Bartlett said there are also questions about funding, and that he and other city officials are looking into grant programs and other possible sources for the project.

"We've got to have the funding in place," Huffman said, adding that City Council members will not increase taxes for the sake of any project.

Bartlett said the delay also gives officials an opportunity to really think about the potential facility -- the size, scope and economic impact.

"We should hold off until we can build what we need," Bartlett said.

"We're going to get one chance to do this so let's do it right. Let's not rush into something just because we want another building."

And if a solid plan is devised, he said, there is always a chance the council members will appropriate some money for the project -- even if there are no funds for the facility reflected in the proposed 2006-07 budget.

"Simply because there are no funds earmarked for 2006-07 does not mean we aren't working," he said.

Huffman agreed.

"Budgets are documents that guide you," Huffman said. "Things can change."