04/19/14 — Yes to parks?

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Yes to parks?

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on April 19, 2014 10:31 PM

With a $18.9 million Parks and Recreation bond vote looming May 6, city officials are working hard to spread information voters need to make an informed decision.

If approved, the proceeds from the sale of the bonds would pay for renovations to Herman Park and Herman Park Center, the construction of a new W.A. Foster Recreation Center in Mina Weil Park, a multi-sports complex and funding to pave greenways in the city.

The city property tax rate would increase by 2.4 cents per $100 worth of property to serve as collateral for the bond. That is an increase that would bring in about $480,000 more in property taxes per year. The current property tax rate is 65 cents.

On a $100,000 home, a resident's property tax would increase $24 per year.

City officials say the bond is important but its failure wouldn't stop the projects.

"If the bond doesn't pass It's not going to be a death blow to us," Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said. "I'm not going to say we won't be staggering from it, but we won't stop. It is my understanding Council wants to move forward with W.A. either way, whether it passes or not. So we would do that and continue looking for grants wherever we can get them. The big difference between getting the bond passed and not is how long it will take."

Barnard said that if the referendum is passed he sees all of the projects being done by 2020, but if it doesn't pass he said the next 20 years would be spent scraping to get the projects done when they are needed now.

"If we don't get these facilities built, we lose a generation," Barnard said. "They will go away after school and not come back or leave for college and stay away."

The plan to put the issue out for a bond vote came about in September after the city Recreation Advisory Committee made a recommendation that the city seek a bond vote to accomplish the projects.

The committee unanimously supported the first three projects in the bond referendum, with the City Council recommending greenways be included in the package.

Councilman Chuck Allen suggested the paving to give the bond a facet that would appeal to everyone across the city.

The bonds could be sold over a 10-year period and would be repaid over a 20-year term.

Each of the original three projects in the bond is expected to cost $6 million each, with $800,000 going to fund the development of greenways in the city.

The administration costs associated with the bond, about $70,000, would be covered by the remaining $100,000 not allocated.

Planned renovations to Herman Park Center include the installation of a gym, a dedicated space for the youth boxing program and updated activity and fitness spaces. The gym would also feature a raised walking track.

Herman Park Center is in need of major renovations to fix the roof and many other places in the building. Putting off fixing the center longer only increases the cost of renovating it, City Manager Scott Stevens said.

Improvements to Herman Park and the center will be phased in under three projects, Barnard said. The first project, funded by the bond, would be to renovate the center and parking area behind it. Phases two and three would focus in on the park itself adding more parking, shelters, walking tracks and updating the playground.

Also a new route is planned for the Kiwanis train.

The debt service on Herman Park Center and Herman Park would be paid through the city's General Fund.

One of the most pressing projects is the construction of the new W.A. Foster in Mina Weil Park.

The current W.A. Foster is laden with asbestos, meaning that no work can be done to the center. That means construction of a new facility.

The new building will be larger, allowing adults and children to stay in the center at the same time instead of making adults leave after school hours. The new building would have a wing for both age groups.

The debt service on the center would be paid mostly through the General Fund, with $2.5 million of the cost coming through Community Development funds.

The bond would pay for the construction of the center and a dedicated entrance to the park from John Street and a road running through the park to increase access to the facilities.

The $6 million earmarked for the construction of a multi-sports complex, built in conjunction with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, would create four multi-use fields sized like soccer fields, with more planned in the future.

The original four fields would be made of a synthetic grass with traditional fields to follow.

Synthetic fields cost more to start with, but are less expensive to keep up, officials say. The complex would also have restrooms, concessions and shelters. It would be built off of Oak Forest road on the east side of the base.

The debt on the sports complex would be paid through the city Occupancy Fund, which is served through the hotel occupancy tax.

Barnard said that the $800,000 for greenway development would not immediately be put to use paving greenways but would be leveraged with grant dollars to stretch the money further.

"I not only want to stretch a nickel as far as I can but I want to turn it into two nickels," Barnard said. "I want to take those funds and leverage them into more. I could take $800,000 and pave greenways and that would be great, but I can do more with it in grants."

The city has received two Recreational Trails Program grants in the last two grant cycles worth $200,000 each.

The grants, funded through the State, require a $50,000 match.

"I want to take $800,000 and turn it into $3 million," Barnard said.

The greenway paving would take place along the city's developing greenway system on the Stoney Creek corridor.

The debt service on the greenways would be paid through the General Fund.