The Fayetteville Board of Mayor and Aldermen may be at a crossroads on its recreation and aquatic center, a facility that remains the focus of an ongoing feasibility study.
In May, the board approved spending $12,500 with HFR Design out of Brentwood on updating a 2008 study, which had been shelved at the time due to financial constraints. In Thursday’s work session, however, board members learned that the 2008 study was more incomplete than they thought, and if they would like to have it thoroughly updated, the cost would be an additional $7,500.
Missing from that 2008 study are operational opportunities – projected expenses as well as revenues that a new facility might have.
“I don’t think there’s a question as to whether our community wants a recreation facility and wants to do this,” said Alderman Tonya Allen. “I think the biggest questions are how we can afford to do it, how can we move forward, and I think the study is very important to get that information.”
“Two of us were here in 2008,” said Alderman Danny Bryant, recalling that the study ground to a halt due to the excessive expense. The ballpark figure eyed then was around $12 million, he said, referring to projected construction costs and adding that didn’t include operating expenses. “It was never was really completed because of the big numbers involved and the fact that we would be looking at, undoubtedly, a property tax increase ...
“I would love to have one, I really would,” he said. “I’m all about progress ... Nowadays, more than likely, if we built a recreation center like we want and with the things we think we should have in it, we could very well be at $15 million, and I don’t even know if that would do it.”
Bryant went on to say the city wouldn’t have that kind of money available. Add to the mix infrastructure issues that need to be addressed, such as major drainage problems, and the feasibility of building such a rec center becomes much less favorable – “I’m just saying we are looking at some issues that are going to tie up what revenue we’ve got,” he said. “To build a $15 million complex will be about 38 cents on the property tax, to build a $12 million complex will be about 29 cents ... When you add operating costs to that, you could easily end up with having to come up with 50 cents on the property tax to fund the whole thing.”
The alderman went on to say that if the dream of building such a recreation facility were to become a reality, it would be funded by city taxpayers, even though 70 to 80 percent of the people using it will likely be rural Lincoln County residents. He added that he didn’t have a problem with going further with the study, because on the positive side, it would give the city a grasp of what it would cost to operate it and what revenue it might generate to offset those costs.
The city’s recreation committee, which includes Allen and Alderman Rachel Martinez, supports the additional funding for the study, said City Administrator Scott Collins, adding that it would give officials a full picture so that they could make an informed decision.
“I’m good with the $12,500, but I’m not really good with putting any more into it,” said Alderman Jeff Alder. “I agree with Alderman Bryant. I think we’re going to run into a very high cost that would be put upon just the city taxpayers. I talked with Mayor Newman in a meeting earlier, and I said I would not be for a rec center without the county being in.”
Alderman Donna Hartman said she agreed with both Bryant and Alder, adding that the agreement was for the $12,500 – “We can keep throwing money at it, but if we know that right now it’s just not a possibility, we don’t want to put that on the taxpayers ... By the time that we can probably do the rec center, it’s going to be out of date, and there will need to be another study,” she said. “I’m all for the rec center, and I think it is a component of the quality of life that we need here, but we’ve got too many things going. We’ve got to pave the streets, we’ve got to redo the sidewalks around the square – they’re in terrible shape.”
“What comes to my mind is the soccer field that’s going to need to be taken care of,” said Vice Mayor Dorothy Small, referring to the Local Parks and Recreation Funds grant project that will see a soccer complex developed on Wilson Parkway. “We don’t know how much that’s going to cost to get it started. We’ve got one field that we know is going to be completed, but we’ve got to take care of the whole complex and we don’t have a cost on that at all ... I am for a rec center, I always have been. I was here in 2008 as well when we had to shut it down, but we’ve got a lot of projects, a lot.”
“We do have a lot on our plate right now,” said Bryant. “I can’t speak for the county, but I will say that the county has a lot on their plate, too, and I don’t see much hope in that area at all and I don’t fault them for it. They’re just like us, they’ve got a lot going on.”
“At the end of the day, that’s one reason I want to complete the study and get all the information that we can,” said Allen as discussion wound to a close. “There are certain topics I hear from one or two taxpayers on, and this is a subject I’ve heard from a lot of the taxpayers on. This next week we’re going to hear from the community, and so for them to make a decision, I think they need all the information and the numbers.”
“Sir, I learned how to count back in 1982 sitting on a board like this, so with the board’s permission, I will go back to HFR and tell them for $12,500 of our taxpayers’ money, we expect a complete report, because that was the original agreement. If they can’t provide the information that this board requires, I’ll come back to this board and ask that we find someone who can for the $12,500.”