03/11/14 — Council picks spot for center

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Council picks spot for center

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on March 11, 2014 1:46 PM

The Goldsboro City Council approved plans Monday night calling for renovations to Mina Weil Park and Herman Park, including the location of a new W.A. Foster Center at the former site.

The Council unanimously approved both conceptual plans after twice tabling them at previous meetings.

Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said that if the $18.9 million Parks and Recreation bond on the May ballot is approved, he expects Herman Park Center and attached parking lot renovations and the construction of a new center at Mina Weil.

The preliminary plan for Mina Weil includes the new center, updated baseball fields and a dedicated entrance from John Street that eliminates parking on the fringe of the park.

The baseball fields would probably be the last amenities added, Barnard said.

Plans for Herman Park and Herman Park Center include a gym, updated spaces for activities and improved parking and entrances to the park.

In the plan, the ditch separating the center and park will be piped and filled in and improved sidewalks will be installed to make the park more handicapped accessible.

Meanwhile, tempers flared during a Council work session as doubts were cast over the value of renovating Goldsboro Union Station.

The Union Station discussion centered on whether the city should apply for a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER VI grant to complete work not funded through the 2013 grant award.

The proposed $10 million in TIGER funding would be have to be matched with $2.89 million local dollars. Councilman Gene Aycock said that he was not against the idea but wanted to know where the local money would come from.

City Manager Scott Stevens said the bulk of the funds would be borrowed or taken out of the General Fund, with a small portion probably coming from the Utility Fund.

"I don't know when we'll be able to leverage money like this again in the future," Stevens said. "I don't know when we'll have an opportunity for 80 percent funding from an outside source."

Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Metz said that her understanding is that the TIGER grant will disappear when President Barack Obama is out of office.

Aycock said that the $2.89 million that would go to the project is money that could not be used for street projects or other, more pressing, needs.

"We need to look at wants and needs and say I want this but I can't afford it and I think we're getting pretty darn close," he said.

Councilman Chuck Allen agreed with Aycock, saying "We have got our plate full. If we can get these Parks and Recreation projects done, then in my mind we have moved the city ahead 15 years. We have done a lot to move this city forward, especially downtown."

Councilman Charles Williams Sr. asked if the city was awarded the grant if it could decline.

Council members and staff agreed that would be a bad idea.

Allen also brought up the issue of upkeep on the train station as a cost to think about.

"We'll be paying for upkeep and there is no guarantee we'll get rail," he said.

Stevens said that in the interim the station would make a good meeting place, a need he has been hearing about since starting with the city almost three years ago.

Councilman Michael Headen became agitated after Allen's comments.

"Why stop this now," he asked. "It doesn't make sense."

Allen said that he never was a fan of the Union Station project but was in favor of completing Center Street Streetscape. He said he did not see the two as one overall project.

Aycock said he thought too much time was being spent on downtown.

"We are putting all of our resources into downtown and neglecting the rest of the city," he said.

"Why did we start the process in the first place?" Headen asked Allen.

Allen said that if the Council wanted to move forward with it he had no problem with it.

Williams said that he was under the impression that there would be resurfacing in the city this year.

Allen said that $500,000 in resurfacing would not fix the problem.

Headen said the streets in his district, which includes Union Station and downtown west of Center Street, are in desperate need of repair.

"It's not one road. You should drive around my district. My district has potholes all over it," Headen said. "They did not come in my areas. You tell me the justice in that. You don't want me to open up Pandora's box for my personal reasons why I think this hasn't happened."

Headen declined to expand on his comments during the work session.

It was decided to table discussions on whether to apply for the next round of TIGER grant funding until the Council's next meeting March 17.