Havelock plans to move forward with the Lewis Farm Road park project after a Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this week.
Mayor Will Lewis said most of the commissioners on the current board were not seated when the project was first proposed about five years ago, and that the meeting provided background on the project and the reasons behind it.
The cost of the project has exceeded budget by about $230,000. Lewis said no formal vote was taken during the meeting, but a consensus of the board was to move forward with the park that is designed to have a multi-purpose athletic field to help support the city’s growing recreation leagues that need more space on which to play and practice.
The property, on Lewis Farm Road near Carolina Pines off U.S. 70, is in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction but not within city limits. Havelock acquired the 46-acre site through a land transfer in 2013 with the N.C. Coastal Land Trust, which aims to protect it from major development that could encroach upon Cherry Point’s training and base operations.
Havelock received a $460,000 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to use for construction on the project. However, the low bid for the work came from Thomas Simpson Construction at $689,297, or about $230,000 above the city’s budget.
Last week, the board discussed several options to reduce the cost of the project, including the possibility of eliminating or reducing the size of the restroom building, cutting on-site amenities such as decorative fencing, trash cans, picnic tables and some landscaping, or eliminating a proposed irrigation system for the athletic field.
Certain park features, such as the playing field, picnic shelter and playground, must be kept as a condition of the grant.
Lewis even mentioned last week the possibility of what he called the “nuclear option,” which would be to scrap the project.
However, commissioners decided during the meeting to move forward instead.
Lewis said that Rivers and Associates, the city’s engineering firm, would consult with Thomas Simpson Construction to find ways to reduce the cost. The project will be brought back to the board during its scheduled Dec. 11 meeting.
The mayor said that despite the cost, the park remained a good deal for city taxpayers.
“We’re going to spend about $200,000 on a three-quarters of a million-dollar park,” Lewis said. “That’s value.”
He also said the park would meet the long-term needs of the city’s recreation department, which has been searching for more athletic fields to handle the soccer, lacrosse, football, softball and baseball leagues that don’t have enough room at the city’s current recreation facility off Fontana Boulevard.
As for the park’s location, Lewis said that available property on which to build such a facility within Havelock was limited, and that the park is just a couple of miles outside the city and within access of many out-of-city residents who participate in the city’s recreational leagues.