01/10/12 — City eyes W.A. Foster, bids for Streetscape

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City eyes W.A. Foster, bids for Streetscape

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on January 10, 2012 1:46 PM

Mayor Al King stressed to the audience and his fellow members of the Goldsboro City Council Monday night that the council had no intentions of closing a recreation center that has been revealed to have fibrous asbestos in isolated sections of the building.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard told council members that air-monitoring tests at W.A. Foster Recreation Center last week had revealed no health concerns and that when he receives a management plan from his consultants within the next week, there should be a solid timetable for reopening the facility.

"We'll pursue a management plan to minimize risk," he said, adding that the plan will likely require staff to isolate the areas where there were concerns, specifically the basement boiler room, a crawlspace and a classroom. "We don't expect more than that."

Still, the permanent future of the facility, built in 1939 with many materials containing asbestos, was discussed as City Manager Scott Stevens noted how the building wasn't large enough to meet all of the needs of the community. The asbestos news means that any efforts to expand or remodel the facility -- which is what staff members were considering when the asbestos was discovered -- would be costly.

Stevens said discussions about a replacement for W.A. Foster would likely come in the next two to five years, but King was adamant that members of the community around the recreation center did not need to worry about losing it.

"This City Council has no intentions to close the building," he said.

But the council was not so united when discussion turned to the Center Street Streetscape project.

There were questions as to whether the council even wanted Finance Director Kaye Scott to begin preparing financing options for what would be a loan for $884,725 to fund the $1.9 million project.

The bid tabulations, which were opened last week, did not take into account the costs for signals, light fixtures, benches, bike racks and electrical work by Progress Energy, which added $245,000 to the total on top of 20 percent contingency, ballooning the nearly $1.4 million bid total to just less than $2 million.

Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen questioned the necessity of so much contingency, but City Engineer Marty Anderson cautioned him that there was no telling what would be below the street. Stevens added that the contingency, if it wasn't needed, wouldn't need to be borrowed, so overestimating just in case wasn't a risk.

The previous low bid before the project was retooled to bring the cost down was $1.7 million and carried 17 percent contingency, or $289,787. The estimated rebid, at $1.6 million, carried an 8 percent, or $129,038, contingency.

Stevens and his staff presented the bid tabulations to the council Monday night, with a recommendation expected to come at the Jan. 23 meeting, but concern over the cost of the renovations to the 200 block of North Center Street -- and the possible costs of renovating future blocks -- led to the scheduling of a separate work session to discuss the project.

"How long before they come back with another block?" District 6 Councilman Jackie Warrick asked after he and District 2 Councilman Bob Waller both said they took issue with the process. "Are we going to go into debt again?"

Waller pointed out the conditions of the roads and sidewalks throughout the city. "There are other needs," he said.

Stevens said there weren't any immediate plans for the future blocks, outside of attempting to "leverage" the city's money through grants. He said the inconsistency between the City Hall block of Center Street and the rest of the blocks downtown could be managed through using municipal service district funds to put trees and new trash cans in.

Stevens said the best option was still to do the project a block at a time.

King finally suggested that a separate session to discuss the project should be held while Mrs. Scott prepared financing options through making contact with banks. The topic is expected to be discussed at length at the next council work session before the Jan. 23 meeting, with a vote to be held at the council's Feb. 6 meeting.