01/06/09 — City puts Recreation Center on hold

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City puts Recreation Center on hold

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on January 6, 2009 1:46 PM

The Community Recreation Center project has officially been put on hold.

Goldsboro City Council members decided Monday to delay the project in three-month increments until officials are confident the city can afford to pay for it.

"We aren't going to build it if we can't pay for it," Mayor Al King said. "We just aren't going to do that."

Council members are hoping the $700 billion federal stimulus package proposed by President-elect Barack Obama's transition team will trickle down to Goldsboro -- and a $500,000 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant will cover part of the expense.

The grant is one of the main reasons council members decided to postpone the project -- to receive PARTF money, the project cannot be in any construction phase.

Bids for the center were scheduled to be received Jan. 14, but Mayor Pro-tempore Chuck Allen said the city should wait until April or May.

"I say we put the community center off and do three things: No. 1, try and see what happens with PARTF and put bids off until April or May," he said during the council's work session. "No. 2, let's see if this infrastructure money comes through which would totally change the picture; and (No.) 3, let's wait and see what our operating costs for the center will be and we can program that into the budget and see what effect it has."

In November, the council hired the Sports Facilities Advisory, a consulting firm, to estimate operating costs for the recreation facility. The cost projection is scheduled to be complete Friday.

Allen said construction costs won't get any higher if the council waits a few months.

"Material costs are actually coming down and may even get lower. Waiting is actually saving us money," he said. "I think it is in our best interest to prolong it a little bit longer and do it in three-month increments."

Allen and King said the project is nowhere near being wiped off the agenda.

"My belief and hope is to be able to build the recreation center. Fifteen years from now, it won't matter if we waited a few months," Allen said. "It's a prudent thing to do. It's the right thing to do. I truly believe that in my heart. It's just a matter of time before we can start construction."

King echoed Allen's sentiment.

"We might not build it this year, but we will build it," King said. "Delaying it is the right thing to do."

City Council members also discussed several other recreation items Monday.

They approved spending Community Development Block Grant money on two recreation areas -- Mina Weil Park and W. A. Foster Center, which were both high on the recommended improvement list in the comprehensive master plan that was also approved at the meeting.

The city has $129,176 in CDBG money that must be spent by April 30.

The council approved spending $105,800 to install two new tennis courts with all new equipment at Mina Weil Park and approved spending $23,870 on outside playground equipment at W.A. Foster Center.

Other areas for consideration to spend the CDBG money were new tennis courts at W.A. Foster Center that would cost $13,200, a new basketball court at Mina Weil Park that would cost $26,000 and continuing sidewalk installation on Slocumb Street from Dixie Trail to Seymour Drive that would cost $146,526.

Council members also looked at and approved the final draft of the comprehensive master plan, which included priorities in improvements to the parks and facilities and recommendations on what to do with the city's smaller parks.

W.A. Foster Center was at the top of the list for needed improvements, with Herman Park coming in second. Mina Weil, H.V. Brown and Peacock parks also were in the top five on the "need repairs" list, while Berkeley, North End, Fairview, South End, Mitchell and Quail parks rounded out the list.

Plan writer Judy Hills was at the meeting to present the plan and told council members that her recommendations included closing Henry C. Mitchell Park, selling the land and using the money to improve other parks.

She also recommended that the city work out an agreement with the owner of the adjacent housing project by South End Park to give the park to the residents for use as a park in perpetuity, provided they maintain it.

Other recommendations included adding soccer fields and a walking trail to Fairview Park; adding a bike trail, handicapped-accessible playground, beach volleyball court and soccer area to Mina Weil Park; adding a walking trail and small picnic shelter to Herman Park; and adding a dog park, a BMX bike trail area, a walking trail, an amphitheater, beach volleyball courts, a skateboard park, a soccer field, a bike park, horseshoe boxes, small playground and more picnic shelters to Berkeley Park.

Ms. Hills told the council, again, that the city's two recreation facilities were "old" and "in need," and suggested getting professional assessments of W.A. Foster Center and Herman Park Center and making necessary repairs to keep them.

Allen said that some of the inexpensive repairs suggested earlier in a draft of the plan were made.

"We have already made a lot of cosmetic improvements," he said. "We just need to take the next steps."

He added that the CDBG money toward two of the recreation areas will help, but the council will have to sort out how much can be spent to improve the other areas of the city's park and recreation facility system at the City Council retreat in February.

Council members also approved changing Stoney Creek Park hours from dawn to dusk; a conditional use permit and coordinating site plan for a tattoo parlor on the corner of Ash and Durant streets; a rezoning request to change property on U.S. Service Road between North William Street and Norwood Avenue from office and institutional to general business; a different wording in the Union Station agreement between the state Department of Transportation and the city to allow other entities to use the station and to allow NCDOT to use it for passenger rail and other transit-related uses in the future; a new 70 percent attendance policy for those on city boards and commissions; a change in the city's homebuyer assistance program that cut out the criteria that home buyers had to be city employees, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base personnel or teachers; and getting financing for four phases to improve the city's water plant if the project is not funded federally.

The next City Council meeting will be Jan. 20 because of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The work session will begin at 3 p.m. in the large conference room in the City Hall Addition, and the council meeting will begin at 5 p.m. in council chambers at historic City Hall.