City eyes plans for W.A. Foster
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on September 5, 2012 1:46 PM
The W.A. Foster Recreation Center on South Leslie Street is to be replaced because of asbestos.
The city of Goldsboro is moving toward replacing an aging recreation center although staff is finding it difficult to find nearby land to acquire to build on.
The rebuilding of the W.A. Foster Recreation Center was discussed late during the Goldsboro City Council's meeting Tuesday.
Asbestos was discovered at the W.A. Foster during inspections to determine the feasibility of expanding the facility on South Leslie Street last winter.
Asbestos is typically found within most structures built before the 1980s, making expansion nearly impossible.
Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard addressed the Goldsboro City Council during the February retreat and shared how vital W.A. Foster was to the surrounding community. The council determined that the city should build a new center, approving funds to pay for design of the new facility and decided on a budget of about $2 million.
The city made an offer on nearby property owned by a church, but Barnard said the church asked for about $950,000 -- a far cry from the city's offer, which he said was more in the $60,000 range.
Next, the staff turned to acquiring any of eight properties near the center, one of which the city already owns, but City Manager Scott Stevens described the response as "lukewarm," with property owners again not wanting to sell at tax value.
Barnard said the staff then began looking at the possibility of building the new W.A. Foster within Mina Weil Park -- a large area of land the city already owns. He said the area would allow for easy expansion in the future if needed.
It also would be in close proximity to Dillard Middle and Carver Heights Elementary schools, he said, which are the schools where many of the center's patrons come from after school.
Building in the park, which contains athletic fields, the city's largest playground and a swimming pool, would also concentrate many amenities into a single area, Barnard said, which would likely increase usage at all of the facilities.
District 4 Councilman Rev. Charles Williams expressed concerns about foot traffic on South John Street leading to the center, which would increase if the center were opened in Mina Weil. He said if the center were built there, the city would need to put sidewalks along it, but Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen said it wouldn't be as easy as simply building sidewalks on the road, which is maintained by the state.
The city would need to take over the street from the N.C. Department of Transportation, similar to what was done on Slocumb Street for the same reason, Allen explained.
Williams said the city should take over the street.
District 3 Councilman William Goodman suggested the Mina Weil location might not be ideal for those who frequent the center from Lincoln Homes or Elmwood Terrace, leading council members to begin suggesting vacant lots in the area that might be suitable.
District 2 Councilman Bill Broadaway suggested a tract of land on Olivia Lane near Slocumb Street, but council members said it wasn't large enough.
Goodman said there was a lot on the west side of Slocumb Street between Elm and Spruce streets that backs up to Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, which could be a possibility.
Barnard said he appreciated the suggestions, but Stevens said there were caveats that would come with additional property acquisition on top of paying for the land.
Assuming the city could find a property owner to sell at fair market price, he said, staff members would be required to maintain additional property, especially since the W.A. Foster land won't be forfeited even after the center is torn down.
Maintenance workers are already struggling to maintain the lands the city now owns, he said, and having all of the amenities at Mina Weil would make maintenance a bit easier.
Allen finally suggested that Barnard come back with a plan for how the center would work at Mina Weil Park while simultaneously looking at more properties in the area for possible acquisition.
In other business considering the South End, Chief Inspector Ed Cianfarra presented the council with photos of eight homes to be demolished -- five of which stand south of Elm Street.
The cost to demolish the homes, which are approaching condemnation, would be $49,900, he said.
Two structures on South Devereaux and one each on South Isler, Wayne Avenue and Wilmington Avenue are on the city's list for demolition. A home on Elm Street, one on East Walnut Street and another on Spruce Street would also be demolished.
Cianfarra will return to the council to ask that the dwellings be condemned and demolished, at which point the property owners will be billed for the demolition. If the owners fail to pay, the city can acquire the property via a lien process.
Following the regular meeting of the City Council, the members met in closed session to discuss property acquisition and litigation matters.