06/17/08 — Financial analysis of city parks sparks controversy

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Financial analysis of city parks sparks controversy

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on June 17, 2008 1:47 PM

A Monday evening report from Parks and Recreation Director Sonya Shaw sparked a conversation that left at least one Goldsboro City Council member questioning the "feasibility" of continued operation and maintenance of the W.A. Foster Center and several local parks.

The discussion began when council member Chuck Allen scoffed at Mrs. Shaw's estimate for repairs at W.A. Foster -- $52,000 to fix foundation, wall and mortar joint issues.

"$50,000 isn't going to touch the problems at that center," Allen said.

But dollars and cents were not the issue for council member Donnie Chatman.

So when City Manager Joe Huffman asked if the center was something the city was interested in continuing to maintain and operate, he was deliberate.

"I say, 'Yes,'" Chatman said.

Allen responded.

"Just out of curiosity, why do you say that?" he asked.

"Historical value, for one thing," Chatman replied.

But Allen wasn't finished, and the conversation turned to Berkeley and South End parks -- city property he suggested is just not being used and might be better off as green space.

This time, councilman the Rev. Charles Williams disagreed, saying that he sees children playing at South End "all the time."

"There's a crowd of kids out there in that park," Williams said. "It's being utilized."

Allen then suggested donating certain parks to the communities in which they are located -- a notion Huffman had something to say about.

"They wouldn't maintain it," he said.

Williams agreed, adding that the city had already invested in South End.

"No. We're doing a good job down there," he said. "We have nice equipment down there."

"Well they can have that to go with it," Allen replied.

His argument was that many local parks are underutilized and that money spent to fix or maintain them might be wasteful spending.

Like Berkeley Park, he said.

Mrs. Shaw asked for more than $32,000 to make repairs there.

And to Allen, who called for usage studies to be done there and at other parks represented on Mrs. Shaw's $275,000 budget, it just does not seem worth it.

But Mayor Al King was not ready to let the discussion go any further.

And after he spoke, the conversation died down.

"We're not going to make any decision without an in-depth review by the board," he said.

And that simply has not happened yet.