Southern Pines Agrees to Priorities for Downtown Park Improvements
The Southern Pines Town Council agreed Monday that replacing the Rainey shelter should be the first improvement to the Downtown Park.
"There's no question about that," Town Council member Chris Smithson said. "The wood is eaten up with termites. The bathrooms are bad. They're just not adequate."
Mayor David McNeill called building a new shelter a "top priority."
"I agree that new bathroom facilities are sorely needed," McNeill said.
The $290,000 project is one aspect of a conceptual master plan for a redesigned Downtown Park that would cost an estimated $7.5 million if fully implemented.
The park is bound by Broad and Ashe streets and Pennsylvania and New York avenues. On-site amenities include a playground, the tennis and basketball courts, the Rainey shelter, public restrooms and a town administration building.
Robert Reeve, director of the town's Recreation and Parks Department, outlined a six-phase plan to begin the improvements at the council's monthly work session Monday.
"Obviously, the ideal thing would be to do it all at one time," Reeve said. "But we know the cost needs to be spread out over time to make it manageable "
After the Rainey shelter, the next project would be the great lawn area ($195,000), followed by the pavilion and pavilion plaza ($320,000), park entrance and basketball area ($179,000), playground area ($265,000), and splash pad ($160,000).
The cost estimates include a design and construction contingency of 25 percent.
"The early phases were ideas that the Town Council was very interested in, and staff were asked to keep them in mind as we prepare the 2013-2014 budget," Town Manager Reagan Parsons said. "But that has to be put into context with other projects within Recreation and Parks that we know are going to be necessary.
"The Downtown Park is important, but it's not the only park in town."
The plan outlined by Reeve did not include the conceptual master plan's big ticket item: $5.5 million to construct a new three-story municipal building that would likely include public meeting space, council chambers, town office space, and a speech and performance terrace in the back.
"I don't think we need that particular building in that particular location at this time," council member Mike Fields said. "I'd rather us spend money on things we really, really need right now. In 10 years, we may need a meeting house."
Fields said he was dismayed that many people were under "the misconception" that adopting the conceptual master plan would mean the building will be constructed.
"All the plan says is that this is a place where you could put the building, but you don't have to," he said. "Maybe it's unfortunate that the master plan included the building."
Smithson said the town would need a new building "somewhere at some point" in the future.
"We have departments spread all over the place and that leads to inefficiencies," he said. "We have no City Hall-type building where people can go and have a reasonable expectation of being able to interface with most town departments."
In other business Monday, the council discussed buying a new automatic water meter reading system that would allow town employees to read meters from a truck instead of going onto residents' property.
Parsons said the $2.2 million project would be paid for with $600,000 from a utilities reserve fund and $1.6 million in installment financing.
"It will take 18 months to completely convert the system," he said.
Parsons noted that about 800 of the town's 8,000 water customers are already on the automatic system.
"We've been doing a very slow phase-in, with any new meters in the system being of this type," he said. "If everything goes well, installation of the new meters could begin as early as May."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com.
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