11/19/13 — W.A. Foster Center will be moved

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W.A. Foster Center will be moved

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on November 19, 2013 4:59 PM

A vote to alter plans for the new W.A. Foster Recreation Center to maintain its original site on Leslie Street failed Monday night by one vote.

Councilman William Goodman made a motion to keep the center where it is during the council's regular meeting at 7 p.m., which Councilman Michael Headen seconded.

Headen also seconded Goodman's Nov. 4 motion to alter plans for the center, which was deferred.

"From a historical perspective, it is one of the few locations that was here during segregation and I support keeping it where it is, but I'm not opposed to a move," Headen said.

The 4-3 vote split included council members Goodman, the Rev. Charles Williams Sr. and Headen for keeping the current location and council members Chuck Allen, Gene Aycock, Bill Broadaway and Mayor Al King for continuing with plans to rebuild at Mina Weil Park.

During the public comment period of the meeting, citizens spoke on both sides of the issue.

"I will be watching each and every one of you," Mary Rowe said. "It's wrong, it's ours. You can mess up Center Street all you want but not W.A. Foster. Everyone who votes against this, I'm going to work against you. I'm going to get my people to vote you out because you are wrong."

Andrew Star spoke in favor of the proposed location at Mina Weil Park.

"I have been asked to speak for my neighbors. We want it built in the Mina Weil area," he said. "That way the children can leave and got to W.A. from their schools."

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said that during public meetings about the center the overwhelming majority supported the move to Mina Weil Park.

The move would also mean not closing the center for 18 months for demolition, asbestos abatement and construction.

"If the council had decided to keep it where it is, we would have taken the money they entrusted to us and built the best center we could have and programmed it until the walls shook," Barnard said. "The vast majority of our users are coming out of these schools. (Mina Weil Park) is a really good location."

After the vote, Goodman said he probably expected the vote to go the way it did, but that he felt maintaining the current location was important and would have provided enough space.

Preliminary plans to build on the current site would mean overtaking a section of Corney Street and three lots across the road from the center, a proposition that was found to be too expensive in the early planning stages of the project.