The Goldsboro City Council’s hesitancy to assume financial responsibility for the T.C. Coley Community Center on Leslie Street has drawn comparisons to its willingness to fund the Goldsboro Municipal Golf Course.
In January, the council voted to have the city Parks and Recreation Department take over the center, after not being able to find a nonprofit organization with the ability to finance the center. Instead of offering the center for use free of charge, the council’s decision included a stipulation that Parks and Recreation draft a fee schedule for the tenants using the center.
At the council’s meeting Feb. 4, Felicia Brown, interim Parks and Recreation director, presented a proposed fee schedule.
Councilman Bevan Foster said that the city should not charge anything for nonprofits to use the T.C. Coley Center. Mayor Chuck Allen and Councilman David Ham countered that, from the beginning, the council had agreed to have the tenants pay something, and as such the fee schedule was simply making good on that decision.
Allen said that the council had always intended for tenants, like Steve Ashford, who runs his boxing gym out of the T.C. Coley Center, to contribute to the center’s upkeep.
“Even Steve, his deal was that he was going to pay some rent, he was going to look after the lawn,” Allen said. “We’ve always said that whoever went there either needed to pay a little bit or needed to do something to contribute to the operation of the building. That’s been talked about since day one.”
Foster said that with the city taking control of the center, it should absorb all costs for the facility and make it available for free. He made the comparison between the T.C. Coley Center, which would cost the city an estimated $36,000 a year to maintain, and the Goldsboro Municipal Golf Course.
“We lose close to $200,000 a year at the golf course, next to $36,000 at the T.C. Coley Center,” he said. “Think about all the money we lost over there, and then we’re complaining about maybe $36,000 a year?”
The city has continued to lose money at the golf course for years, a concern voiced often by Goldsboro resident Lawrence Merritt. Merritt, who keeps track of the golf course’s revenue and expenses, has urged city officials to make the golf course more profitable out of concern for taxpayers. The losses have been covered through the city’s general fund.
According to city financial records, the golf course operated at a $312,884 loss during the 2012-13 fiscal year, a $201,789 loss in 2013-14, a $155,900 loss in 2014-15 and a $112,790 loss in 2015-16.
In 2016-17, the golf course brought in $516,873 in revenue against $696,231 in expenditures, according to a city audit, resulting in a loss of $179,358.
The T.C. Coley Center, formerly the W.A. Foster Center, was once a major hub of the African-American community in Goldsboro. When the city proposed demolishing the center in 2016, community members pushed to save it, saying that the center represented the last historical connection that black people in the area had to their community. The center is a popular gathering place for kids who play basketball and other games frequently, Foster said.
The golf course serves a member base comprised mostly of older people. In an Aug. 27 presentation to the council, Byron Ash, with the Goldsboro Municipal Golf Course Advisory Committee, said that as of August, the course had 165 members broken up into four categories: One junior member (ages 18 to 26 years), 28 military members, 43 regular members (ages 59 years and younger) and 93 senior members (ages 60 years and older).
Mayor Chuck Allen said he is not necessarily against the city absorbing the cost of running the T.C. Coley Center.
“The building is a pretty nice building,” Allen said. “To me, if the city wants to keep the building and run it, that’s perfectly fine. It’s just a change in what we ever said we were going to do.”
Allen said that the cultural significance of the T.C. Coley Center is a large part of why it continues to exist in the city.
“The idea, when we built the new W.A. Foster, we were going to tear what is now the Coley Center down,” Allen said. “That was always the plan. Because it is important to the black community and because we needed meeting space, those are the reasons I advocated to keep it to start with.”
After taking control of the center, the council decided to do away with charging nonprofits for use of the space for one year. The search for a nonprofit capable of running the center continues. In the meantime, reservations for the facility are being handled through the Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Department.