09/23/09 — Rec Center on table

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Rec Center on table

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 23, 2009 1:46 PM

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Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen, right, discusses new developments in the Recreation Center project with John Richards, left, and other members of the Recreation Center Committee this morning at City Hall.

Just two weeks after members of the Goldsboro City Council discussed the possibility of moving forward with construction of a recreation center downtown, the Recreation Center Committee met at City Hall this morning to continue to work toward that end.

Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen was among those on hand and told members of the committee that the same economic climate that prompted the council to put the project on hold in January has created an opportunity to build the facility for much less than the $12 million originally anticipated.

"Basically ... how this thing came back together ... several of us were talking and we kind of came up with the idea that if you're ever going to build this thing, you'll never get prices that are cheaper than they are right now based on what we're seeing, and you'll never get financing that is cheaper than right now," he said. "Basically, what they are telling us right now is that we could finance this thing for 20 years at around 4 percent. ... When we started this thing two or three years ago we were looking at 7.5 percent. So what we're looking at is about a $3 or $4 million savings over time.

"So basically what the City Council agreed is, 'OK. We've got this $12 million project, and we think it's going to come in for a little over $10 million. If that's the case, we want to sit down and look at seriously doing it,'" Allen added. "If we're ever going to do it, now is the time."

So this morning's meeting was intended to give those people who have been providing input since the onset of the project one last chance to weigh in on the plans before putting the project out for bids and approaching the council for a final decision.

Among the items that were discussed were "softening up" the proposed facade of the building to make it more aesthetically pleasing, whether or not to include the climbing wall, and what the water feature -- if it stays in the plans -- might look like.

"I do think the building needs something," said Julie Thompson, Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. executive director. "The building, as most people have agreed, is not the most attractive thing, and the waterway was a nice feature ... and it softens it a little bit."

But City Manager Joe Huffman warned that making too many changes would delay the project and, as a result, add dollars to the lowered price tag.

"I feel a sense of urgency," he said. "So I know we have to make some changes ... but I hope whatever we do, it comes together pretty quickly."

Allen agreed and said any changes that were suggested at this point should be minor.

"We're too far into this thing to make major changes. The bullet has already left the gun," he said. "Changing a wall is simple, but if you start taking out a lot of stuff or adding a lot of stuff, we don't want to be redoing these plans too much."

Allen and Huffman are set to meet with the architects later today, with the hope that by the beginning of November, the plans will be completed to the point where the city can put the project out for bid.

"Basically what we're saying is we're going to put this thing out for bid ... the first of November," Allen said, adding that would mean the bids would come back by the end of November and the project proposal would be brought before the City Council for a vote by its Dec. 7 meeting.

"I think on Dec. 7, everybody is going to know where this thing is going," Allen said.

The city has been eyeing construction of a new recreation center since the previous facility -- opened in 1925 and located on Walnut Street -- was destroyed by fire in 2004.

So the council established a 12-member committee in June 2005 to research a possible reconstruction, and until January of this year, had a design, location and most of the additional details to make it happen in place.

The city even closed the deal on property located on the 200 block of Center Street as the future site of the facility.

In March 2008, the Goldsboro Planning Commis-sion approved the building and months later, the council hired the Sports Facilities Advisory, a consulting firm, to estimate operating costs for the recreation facility.