02/01/10 — Rec Center vote tonight

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Rec Center vote tonight

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on February 1, 2010 1:46 PM

Goldsboro's on-again, off-again Recreation Center project will likely move one step closer to becoming a reality this evening, as members of the City Council are expected to approve the latest set of plans for the facility and put the project out for bid.

In fact, the vote will be more of a formality than anything, as most of the council was present Friday at a special work session called by City Manager Joe Huffman for the purpose of giving the board one last look at the drawings, and few concerns were voiced.

"I don't need another look, Joe," Councilman Jackie Warrick said, before "walking through" the plans with the others on hand. "I've been looking at this thing for years."

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.

In June 2005, a committee was formed to research a possible reconstruction, and since, the group has produced a design, location -- the 200 block of Center Street -- and most of the additional details to make it happen.

But the project was put on hold in January 2009 because of a shaky economy -- the same climate officials now say would save millions on construction should the council decide to move forward.

That decision won't come with Monday's vote on whether to put the project out for bid.

But when those bids come back -- sometime in March -- the price tag will be the determining factor.

Years ago, $12 million was the projected cost for a new Rec Center downtown.

But both Huffman and Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen are convinced the bids will come in much lower now -- and that interest rates will remain at an unprecedented low.

"I think by (March), we'll know," Allen said Friday.


As the plans currently show it, the Recreation Center would be a YMCA-like facility, complete with climbing wall, concession area, day care room, restrooms, a pool, classrooms, gymnasium and indoor track. A fitness center, weight room and gaming room also are included in the plan.

The majority of the council has remained satisfied with the renderings produced by architectural firm Pearce, Brinkley, Cease and Lee, P.A.

Only Michael Headen has voiced opposition to the look, saying in December that he did not believe the building "fit" into his vision of downtown.

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

But Friday, after showing up at the tail end of the work session, he remained silent about the appearance of the proposed facility.

Other concerns, however, were voiced.

The Rev. Charles Williams wanted to know about the sprinkler system and whether or not the parking lot would be safe.

"It will be very well lit," Public Works director Neil Bartlett said.

"But it needs to be," Allen added.

Williams also had questions about how the center would be run -- and whether the building would truly serve the entire population if the city moved forward with membership-based access only.

"It's a public facility. Everybody's going to get to use it," Huffman replied. "But we want everyone to be a member."

"All we're saying is, we don't want you walking willy-nilly through the building," Allen added.

"I know it will benefit those who are underprivileged," Williams replied. "I'm still holding onto that."

The council also discussed the projected operating costs for the building -- $750,000 to $1 million a year -- and whether the city could bear the burden.

"It will never pay for itself," Allen said, likening the facility to the Paramount Theatre.

"It's like another service," Huffman added. "Parks don't make money."