Havelock commissioners discussed two properties being considered as possible recreation areas during their meeting on Monday night.
Though they seemed to favor the idea of acquiring 47 acres at the end of Lewis Farm Road near Carolina Pines for a new park, they made no firm decision and plan a vote on the issue during their Jan. 28 meeting.
The city is looking at a new park because youth sports league and recreation officials say there is a need for more recreation fields in Havelock.
"We have a need," Havelock Mayor Jimmy Sanders said. "I fully understand that we have a need for additional recreation space. It’s just a matter of how much it’s going to cost us to get it open."
The board and city staff discussed the Lewis Farm property as well as 15 acres on Greenfield Heights Boulevard.
The city is considering applying for a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant that would provide $500,000 for development of the Lewis Farm Road property into a recreation area that would include two fields, a concession area, bathrooms and a parking lot. The city would have to come up with about $75,000 to complete the project.
Discussion Monday night focused on concern of a land appraisal that came in $540,000 below earlier estimates. The appraisal is key in getting the grant, but Dave Smith, recreation director, said state officials indicated to him that the appraisal was inaccurate and that arrangements could be worked out so the city could put up the value of the land as the city’s portion to match the grant.
Still, residents and owners of horse stables on Lewis Farm Road oppose the park plan, saying increased traffic would impact their rural road and would cost them customers who seek the solitude of the area to ride on nearby horse trails.
Smith said there would be places on the property for horse trails.
"I feel like we can come up with something that will be mutually beneficial as far as horses are concerned," said Sanders.
Sanders said the land, located 2.8 miles from Havelock’s city limits, would have two fully-lighted fields but would not be able to match in size the current recreation facility off Fontana Boulevard.
"It’s what we can afford and it takes care of a lot of his (Smith’s) problems," Sanders said.
Sanders called the grant arrangement "an awesome deal" for the city.
"The city residents have said they need it," Commissioner George Liner said, but pointed out that the state had a new governor and the state budget was tight. "We could try this and it could be a dead deal from the start."
Smith told the board about $69,000 would be needed to operate the park for a year. That cost would cover supplies and the salary for one maintenance worker.
Commissioner Danny Walsh said he expected the cost to be higher, adding that Havelock police would likely have to be involved.
Sanders felt the city’s budget could handle the expense, adding that even if the city didn’t get the grant, the price of the property was a good deal.
"It would be better than where they are right now," he said.
The Greenfield Heights property is smaller and carries a $1.1 million cost. It does have a baseball diamond and room for two non-regulation soccer fields. It also has a 13,000 square-foot building with indoor basketball court, showers, kitchen and meeting rooms.
Smith said an additional $395,000 in upgrades would be needed and estimated annual operating costs at $219,000, which would include three more employees.
"If somebody can come up with an out-of-the-box idea about how we can operate it, I’m on board." Sanders said.
Walsh called the Greenfield Heights property and building a "great deal."
"You’ll never come across it again, and it’s in a great place," he said of the property across the railroad tracks behind Food Lion. "If there was a way to work everything out, I’d lean in this direction."
"When I first saw it, I said that’s a great deal," Sanders said. "Then the reality set in that you can’t pay to operate it."
In other business Monday night, the board:
- set March 13 and 14 for its annual lobbying trip to Washington, D.C.
- heard briefly on proposed signs at the entrance to the city to honor the Havelock High state championship football teams, which he said would cost $16,000. Commissioners said that they would need financial support from the community to pay for the signs.