02/12/13 — Foster to top council talking points

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Foster to top council talking points

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 12, 2013 1:46 PM

The Goldsboro City Council approved by consent Dec. 17 seeking qualifications from architectural firms for a new W.A. Foster Center to be located at Mina Weil Park, but the next step toward replacing the city's aging facility was delayed until the City Council retreat, which begins today.

The retreat will be all day today and tomorrow at the Goldsboro Municipal Golf Course. The public is invited to attend the meeting, which deals with long-term planning for the city.

Still, the W.A. Foster decision looms large on the agenda, as the council approved a reimbursement resolution for an amount not to exceed $30,000 for the plans for the new recreation center to expedite the process, reportedly to pursue grant funding.

But the best qualified firm, HH Architecture from Raleigh, would need $47,543 to put the plans together, which are to include three designs: one for a high-end center, another for an inexpensive one and one more that is a middle-of-the-road model option.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard asked the City Council Feb. 4 to approve this expenditure, which would be paid for through a loan after financing is secured, but council members then questioned the necessity of the plans, which City Manager Scott Stevens described as preliminary schematics, which would also give construction cost estimates.

District 5 Councilman Chuck Allen saw it as wasteful, however.

"To me, you're spending money twice," Allen said. "You're spending $47,000 and then starting over."

Barnard and Stevens explained throughout the ensuing discussion that the firm would incorporate public input into the designs, but Allen said he felt the Parks and Recreation staff knew the needs of the community and how they should be filled by the facility.

Still, the discussion digressed into talk about the location of the facility again, although the site had already been approved unanimously Nov. 6.

"My concern is still the location," District 3 Councilman William Goodman said. "I've had some feedback from people who would rather see W.A. Foster demolished and rebuilt."

That option had not been considered since early in the process because it would temporarily halt programming in the area and the current site would not allow for proper expansion. Parks and Recreation staff members have repeatedly noted the need for the center to have two gymnasiums.

District 4 Councilman the Rev. Charles Williams reminded Goodman that the measure to put the center at Mina Weil had already been approved and the conversation turned, again, to the design costs.

Allen asked about the budget for the project, which has been casually assumed to be in the vicinity of $1.5 to $2 million.

"It's broken out from the whole," Barnard said of the $47,000 expenditure. "I wanted to be able to show options so you can tell me the budget."

But Allen insisted the firms should be able to do the planning for the center for less.

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Headen asked Barnard what he hoped the design work would lead to, prompting Barnard to explain the process, which would entail the firm working with the staff to arrange public meetings to ensure the facility fits the community's needs.

He also said the design work would give construction cost options per square foot and reduce the chance of change orders once construction begins.

District 6 Councilman Gene Aycock said he also had reservations about spending so much money on design work, especially when Barnard had already presented pictures of centers similar to what the city would like to install.

"The problem I have with this is you came in here with pictures of other rec centers. There's plenty of rec centers that have been built," he said, asking why the city couldn't simply ask other municipalities how much their facilities had cost to build.

Barnard said the qualifications process could be restarted, but Aycock said that wasn't the point.

"You're missing the point of what I said," he said. "We won't have a rendering, we'll have exactly what we're building."

Allen also took issue with allowing the firm to dictate what the community wanted from its new center.

"They don't know what the community wants, (the Parks and Recreation staff) know what the community wants."

Stevens insisted, however, that the city engage the public before finalizing any plans.

Goodman then turned the conversation back to the location, saying that the public wouldn't utilize a facility at Mina Weil.

Goodman again said the location was too far from Lincoln and Fairview Homes and Elmwood Terrace, a view he first voiced in September.

"You're draining the community of a facility," he said.

Stevens said some of the building's cost could potentially be offset by community development funds, while Barnard noted that there would be no need to hire extra staff for the new center.

Aycock again said he didn't like the idea of spending what he saw as extra money on facility's planning.

"I'm tired of spending money on studies," Aycock said.

Headen seemed to agree.

"I just want to make sure that we're using our dollars wisely," he said before moving that the item be tabled until the council's retreat.

The W.A. Foster Recreation Center will be discussed along with the Parks and Recreation Master Plan during Wednesday's portion of the daylong City Council retreat.