S.P. Council Weighs Major Capital Improvement Items
The Southern Pines Town Council debated priorities on big-ticket capital improvements items at a work session Monday.
Those included a proposed 140-million-gallon raw water reservoir, a new police station and municipal building, and a proposed aquatics facility.
Council members disagreed on the priorities when it came to choosing between constructing a new municipal complex and building a new reservoir at an estimated cost of $3.7 million. The reservoir would be sort of an insurance policy in the event of future serious droughts. During a severe drought in 2002, Drowning Creek, which supplies the town's water, nearly ran dry.
Councilman Chris Smithson said he felt that building the proposed reservoir is "more important than a new police station."
However, Councilman Mike Haney countered that the reservoir is much more expensive than building a new municipal/police complex.
The reservoir would supplement an existing 20-million-gallon facility at the town's water treatment plant south of Pinebluff that holds about five days' worth of water supply for Southern Pines.
The town temporarily moved the Police Department to the former Access Printing building off U.S. 1 near Morganton Road until a new, more modern station is built.
The existing 1950s-era municipal building and police station on Broad Street in Southern Pines was torn down last week. Once the council agrees on architectural plans and the funding its worked out, the town plans to build a new complex on the same site. It will include a new police station, council meeting chambers and administrative offices.
Smithson reminded council members that one of the main issues he pushed when he ran for election was that the town needs to build a large raw water reservoir so it would not have to rely on other municipalities in the event a severe drought like the one in August 2002.
He said he became concerned after reading a story in The Pilot that the council had decided not to proceed with building a reservoir. The subject did come up after mandatory conservation measures were lifted after the drought eased.
In the meantime, Southern Pines has acquired 60 acres for the reservoir site near the water treatment plant in the Drowning Creek area.
The council decided to proceed with having the Charlotte architectural firm of HSMM prepare three options on exterior architectural designs showing the view of all four sides of the proposed municipal complex at East New York and South East Broad Street. Once the council approves the design, the town can seek construction bids.
Council members agreed to set a public information-gathering event of some kind in the next month or two to give residents an opportunity to view the three options and offer input.
All three options show exteriors made of brick with a hipped roof, though with different entrance decorations and shapes and approaches. The floor plans have been completed.
On the subject of the aquatic facility, Mayor Frank Quis said the town cannot afford to build one, which would cost an estimated $2 to $3 million.
A task force had recommended building a new pool on town-owned property at Morganton Road and South Henley Street rather than renovating or expanding the nearby 47-year-old pool in West Southern Pines. The task force felt the new site would be more visible.
Without major expenditures, the future of the existing pool is limited, according to Assistant Town Manager David White.
The Town Council decided in the spring of 2005 to close the pool because expensive repairs were needed to meet health standards. The council reversed itself after hearing pleas from West Southern Pines community leaders to keep it open.
Quis and others pointed out that there is no way to be sure whether such a facility will be used sufficiently to justify the multi-million dollar expense. The town sent letters to the Pinehurst, Aberdeen, and Moore County recreation departments asking whether they would want to explore a joint facility, including a new swimming pool. Little or no interest has been expressed in that idea.
A minimum of $250,000 is needed to overhaul the existing municipal pool, the council was told, but no action was taken. For the time being, the town plans to open the pool for summer 2007 season.
A small baby pool couldn't be used this summer because of needed repairs, said Recreation and Parks Director Robert Reeve.
He said the town could apply for a maximum grant of $500,000 from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. He said the town would want to have firm plans on how to use the money before applying for the grant.
A survey among town residents earlier by a consultant revealed a majority wanted an aquatic recreation facility at a new location as long as it did not require a tax increase.
"The Pool Park needs to be upgraded and continue to be used by people of all ages," Quis said. "It's important that the 'clay hole' (a local nickname) park be kept up so families and others can use it."
Quis pointed out that "there are so many alternatives now." The Boys and Girls Club of the Sandhills has begun using a privately owned pool in Pinehurst instead of the town pool within walking distance.
Some residents argued that the pool usage declined because the town didn't adequately maintain it, allowing filters and recycling equipment to become so worn out that the water wasn't being adequately cleansed. The usage increased some after the town made repairs last year.
Sara Lindau can be reached at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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