First Posted: 1/15/2009
PEMBROKE - The Pembroke Town Council stepped to the plate and agreed to go ahead with plans to develop a 33-acre, $1.1 million recreation park and sports complex.
The town voted 3 to 1 during a special meeting Thursday to take out a 20-year loan.
The park - the first of its kind in Robeson County — will be on N.C. 711 near FoxGlove Place development. The complex will include four baseball fields, a soccer field, three basketball courts, five tennis courts, a volleyball court, a playground and picnic areas. The park, expected to be ready by next July, will become the first major recreation upgrade in more than 30 years.
Councilman Allen Dial voted against the park as it was proposed, saying he disagreed with cutting $327,356 from the park's budget. The cuts include a gravel parking lot instead of a paved one, installing a metal gate at the entrance instead of iron steel and eliminating a walking trail.
“It's not that much more to make it a first-class facility,” Dial said.
Mayor Milton Hunt was also opposed but for a different reason. He said he did not want to burden taxpayers by going into debt until the year 2025, but did not have a vote because the mayor only votes to break ties.
Town Manager McDuffie Cummings said revenue from the future Wal-Mart and other growth on the east end of town will defray the estimated $81,000 yearly payments. Wal-Mart is projected to produce $90,000 a year in revenue.
“I think we jumped too much, too fast,” Hunt said. “Any indebtedness that this board makes, you have to guarantee that the money is going to be paid back through the tax rate.”
He said that money could be spent to hire help at Town Hall.
“We've got places we can spend our money better than creating a debt,” Hunt said. “I am against getting into our citizens' pocketbooks. We can't continue to make debt payments and survive.”
Councilman Larry McNeill said if the town waits six months or a year, the cost of construction would double.
“The manager has assured us that we have the money,” Councilman Larry Brooks said. “If it was obvious that we didn't have the revenue, then I wouldn't be for it. But it's obvious we have the money. I see it from the growth on the east end.”
The town received a $250,000 grant from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to develop the land. Cummings said the annual loan payments, at a interest rate of 3.75 percent, will dip to $62,000 over time. Maintenance costs are estimated at $25,000 a year. A recreation director will be hired.
The engineering firm Wooten Company in Raleigh plans to solicit bids in August so the contracts can be awarded by late November. Michael Clark, an architect with Native American Design in Pembroke, will design the concession stand and other buildings.
Officials hope the park will attract large sporting events and tournaments.