02/16/12 — City eyes course, W.A. Foster

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City eyes course, W.A. Foster

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 16, 2012 1:46 PM

The Goldsboro City Council's two-day retreat at the Paramount Theatre this week wrapped up Wednesday, and although there were few binding decisions made, the city's elected officials gave direction to department heads that will factor heavily into the city's spending plans as the budget season nears.

The city's business projects were not discussed in great detail, although the council did tell Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard that the city should fund a replacement facility for the aging W.A. Foster Recreation Center.

The building was found to contain asbestos in December and was closed for weeks. It has since been cleared for safety, but Barnard explained that the city had outgrown its only basketball facility, which contains just one gymnasium.

The facility's replacement, which Barnard said could contain two gyms and cost about $1 million, would ideally be built on another site to create a seamless transition away from the current center.

City Manager Scott Stevens said while the project wasn't a priority within the next six months, he felt it would need to be replaced in the next five years.

Barnard's department was the subject of two other discussions, as council members continued to question the validity of maintaining a municipal golf course.

"One thing we have to do is get the revenue up," Mayor Pro Tempore Chuck Allen said of the golf course. "It's not core to our mission, and we can't be losing $200,000 a year. That's 10 police cars or a 1 percent pay raise. I don't think we can lose that kind of money."

Golf Operations Director Rick Atkins and Barnard gave a presentation which showed how the Goldsboro course's revenues compared with similar municipal courses in Greenville and Wilson.

The presentation showed the city's course revenue ($572,420) was on par with Wilson's revenues (about $550,000), and also showed Bradford Creek, in Greenville, factored its concessions, driving range revenues and other items into its $807,947 total. Council members asked for a chart comparing expenditures, as well, which Barnard said he would provide in the future.

Barnard also unveiled some possible marketing strategies for the course, including moving to a punch-card system instead of membership, a name change, and partnerships to increase golf interest, especially among youth.

The other main discussion of Parks and Recreation concerned compliance.

Beginning March 15, all city playgrounds and swimming pools must adhere to new Americans with Disabilities Act-approved standards, meaning to remain open and free of liability, the city will need to invest in its recreation facilities.

Changes in the requirements mean sand is no longer an approved surface for beneath playground equipment more than four feet in height. The city will need to replace its sand at various playgrounds with 4,500 cubic yards of engineered fiber chips at the cost of $94,000 to remain compliant.

Barnard explained this didn't mean the city necessarily had to perform the investment immediately, but that failing to do so would make the city liable in case of any incident.

Sand is today considered a poor material to cushion falls from up to 10 feet and also is not wheelchair friendly.

Investments to make the city's two swimming pools won't prove as costly, but will nonetheless be required in order for them to open up this summer.

Lifts to allow handicapped access to the pools will be required at about $5,000 each. The number of lifts required for each pool is determined based on the linear wall length of the facility. Barnard said the city could be compliant with one in each, but suggested installing two at Peacock.

Compliance was the main discussion of another department at the retreat as well, although it wasn't nearly as straightforward.

Chief Inspector Ed Cianfarra explained that beginning March 1, he would need to enforce a new residential building code that has not yet been written.

State policy mandates that the new code must be used beginning March 1, but Cianfarra said the code likely wouldn't be available until May.

That presents an interesting dilemma for Cianfarra. Since he is bound by law to enforce a code he doesn't have access to.

"I may be able to lose my license if it's not enforced," he told the council.

He said requests of the Legislature to delay the code enforcement haven't succeeded and floated the idea of an inspection moratorium until the code was finalized. Some cities had issued local moratoriums, while Charlotte-Mecklenburg had determined to keep inspecting under the previous code regardless of the policy.

Cianfarra explained that he did not have a recommendation for the council, but said he would need guidance on how to proceed as the first day of March nears.

Cianfarra said there were two planned projects that could fall within the interim between the codes and that he had asked to begin the inspection earlier. If the inspections are begun before the code takes effect, the previous code can be used throughout the inspection process, ridding him or the city of liability.

Cianfarra also identified 10 homes in the northwest portion of the city along the West Grantham Street corridor that were candidates for demolition. He explained that there were 375 houses in the city that don't meet state minimum standards and there are 60 ready for condemnation.

Condemning and demolishing those 60 buildings would cost about $480,000, he said, a far cry from the $25,000 he was granted in last year's budget.

"This year I'll be asking for more money," he said of the coming budget discussions.