07/13/08 — Rec Center bill could be lower, Council Member Williams says

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Rec Center bill could be lower, Council Member Williams says

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 13, 2008 2:01 AM

With a completion date projected, completed drawings due and site plans approved by the Goldsboro Planning Commission earlier this year, the city's $12.3 million recreation center appears to be one vote away from reality.

But at least one member of the City Council is not yet convinced that the scope of the project is necessary.

The Rev. Charles Williams said he believes in the project and would do "whatever is necessary" to make it happen, but recognizes that $12 million -- $13 million if you count furnishing costs -- is going to seem like a lot of money to taxpayers.

So he would rather see a smaller-scale version of the 60,000-square-foot plan.

"The price of materials has gone up. That is why you are hearing that $12 million figure," he said. "But hey, we could go ahead and spend say $6 million, go ahead and build with that -- cut back on things and add later."

City Manager Joe Huffman said he has never seen a city following through with a phased version of such a project -- and that despite the increased cost of everything, it "makes sense" to build now.

"What I am hearing is that now is the time to build," he said. "Yes, there are going to be increased costs, it's going to cost a lot, but my point is, will it ever get cheaper?"

Mayor Al King said he would reserve judgment on the estimated price tag until he had all the facts, but acknowledged that a similar projection for the Paramount Theatre was cut in half by businessman David Weil.

"If we can do it for less, we will," he said. "But right now, the committee is putting together their plan and we need to wait and see what they come up with."

Final drawings are expected by the end of the month.

And while King, Williams and other members of the council will likely wait to formally weigh in on the dollars and cents until that time, there are other issues they expect to surface in the coming weeks.

Like whether or not a membership fee would be required to "join" the center -- a notion Huffman said he believes would happen.

"Whether you're charging people $1 a year or $50 a year to join, it seems like you almost have to require membership," he said. "We need to be able to keep track of who is coming in and out."

King said fees or not, the facility would serve "everybody" -- that even if a payment were required, something could be worked out for those without the means.

Williams agreed.

"I think that those people who are in Parks and Recreation, they need to make sure the low-income people will utilize this recreation center," he said. "We need to insist that they do."

Other issues might surface, too, Williams said.

Like whether or not construction of the center would mean closure of W.A. Foster and some local parks -- an idea of how to save money suggested by Councilman Chuck Allen.

"You have to have sensitivity. I have been in that community. I used to go to W.A. Foster when I was young," Williams said. "And you are going to discontinue it just because you're building a recreation center? No."

Not even if the council approves the plan at $13 million, he said.

"We should be able to find the money we need to do both -- build a recreation center and bring our existing parks up to standard," Williams said. "And I believe we will."