12/08/09 — Is the Rec Center back on track?

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Is the Rec Center back on track?

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 8, 2009 1:46 PM

No more than an hour after representatives from an investment advisory firm told Goldsboro City Council members a $12 million Recreation Center was manageable, the board voted to appropriate more than $340,000 toward the project -- money that will go to architectural firm Pearce, Brinkley, Cease and Lee, P.A., for additional design services, re-bidding fees and construction administration fees associated with reconstructing the facility.

But Councilman Michael Headen said he is not convinced the current design is worth the expense, so he voted against additional funding for the project.

The facility, as the plans currently show it, is simply not in line with his vision of downtown

"Is this the best design we can get? ... This stuff looks like the same old crap," he said. "It looks like the same thing, rolled over again. ... We paid them an asinine amount of money for those designs."

But Parks and Recreation David Carter said the rendering was reflective of the particular architect's style.

"If you don't like what you have, throw the entire thing away, go hire a new architectural firm and start over," he said. "You're right. You spent a lot of money to get to this point. It's a modern, contemporary, new urban type of design. ... That's what they came up with."

"When did Goldsboro get to be urban?" Headen replied.

"That's up to you guys," Carter said. "Not me."

Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen said he believes the process is too far along to address the kind of changes Headen might like to see.

He agreed with Carter, that changing the current plans might make the project unaffordable.

"I don't think you want to spend the money to start over," Allen said.

The on-again, off-again project was put on hold earlier this year, as officials worried about taking on additional debt during tough economic times.

But just more than two months ago, the members of the Recreation Center Committee met at City Hall to discuss the fact that the same economic climate that prompted the council to put construction of the facility on hold had created an opportunity to build it 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," Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen said at the late September meeting. "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.' If we're ever going to do it, now is the time."

Officials from Davenport & Company LCC did not back up the claim that the project could be done for $10 million Monday evening.

But they did say -- using a projected pricetag of $12 million -- the city could handle the cost.

"We have the capacity to handle this debt," Finance Director Kaye Scott said after their presentation.

Even if not all members of the council are content with what those dollars would ultimately buy.

With additional funding for the architects now approved, Carter said that "pulls the trigger for the next part of the process."

Bids, he added, are expected to go out by the end of February and when they come back, the council will have to use the proposed pricetag to determine whether or not construction is viable.