01/02/12 — Closure possible for city center

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Closure possible for city center

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on January 2, 2012 1:46 PM

Asbestos concerns within the W.A. Foster Recreation Center could eventually lead to the facility's permanent closure in a worst-case scenario, Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said Thursday morning, and preliminary results came back showing a significant amount of the hazardous substance in many of the center's building materials.

Barnard said air monitoring would take place on Wednesday or Thursday of this week to determine whether there is a significant health risk.

The results come as no surprise, Barnard said, since the building was constructed in 1939 and has undergone three large-scale renovations in its lifetime -- all in years before asbestos was outlawed.

The material was detected in some walls and floor tiles, where it doesn't pose a health risk if it's maintained well, but was also found loose in the basement of the facility where it was used to insulate pipes.

"The majority of this asbestos seems to be in non-occupied places," he said. "Boiler rooms, attic spaces and storage spaces not even occupied by staff."

The main boiler room below the gymnasium floor is accessible only by trap door and an old iron ladder, he said. A staircase that used to lead under the building has been sealed off for years.

Even after the air monitoring, though, the facility won't be reopened immediately. If there are no findings that the building is potentially hazardous, the asbestos in the basement will still need to be either sealed off or removed. If the building's condition does pose a risk to patrons, that would lead to a big decision on the future of the center.

Since the center was closed Dec. 21, Barnard has said his staff has been preparing for what he called the worst-case scenario -- the possible permanent closure of the facility.

Barnard pointed out that if repair costs, which when dealing with asbestos can be costly, surpass a certain threshold, the facility could be subject to demolition and replacement.

"If it would make more sense to replace than to repair, then that's a case we'll make to the City Council and try to come up with a quick solution," he said.

But even that worst-case scenario might have a silver lining, he said, since the discovery of the asbestos-like material occurred during an evaluation to see if walls could be taken down to make more space in the aging recreation center.

"The facility has a whole lot of years on it and was already not meeting the needs," he said. "We outgrew that facility years ago."

The consultants will put together abatement plans, which will inform the bidding process for any removal project, he said. That should allow the Goldsboro City Council to evaluate the costs and what the best next step is for W.A. Foster.

Barnard said he will also put together some rudimentary cost estimates for the replacement of the facility so the council could have a secondary plan in case the abatement costs were too high. He said W.A. Foster was too important to the community near it for the facility to close permanently without another alternative in place.