The county commissioners are expected to award a $280,000 contract Tuesday evening to build a splash pad in Hillcrest Park in Carthage.
It will be similar to the one in Rassie Wicker Park in Pinehurst.
County officials began looking into the possibility of adding the popular water feature in Hillcrest Park in conjunction with developing plans for a new recreation center.
The commissioners got an update on plans for the splash pad and recreation center Wednesday morning during a daylong special meeting that was rescheduled from September because of Hurricane Florence.
“We’ve been getting a plan in place and a funding strategy in place,” County Manager Wayne Vest told the commissioners. “This is a project we are very excited about.”
Vest said the county has identified $5.29 million in funding for the overall project, which includes the recreation center, splash pad, new parking and other improvements. It would constitute the first phase of a new master plan developed for the Hillcrest Park.
Future plans include the addition of a fifth baseball field in the park.
County leaders wanted to update the master plan for Hillcrest done, which was done in 1994, before moving ahead with building the recreation center and splash pad.
“We have arrived at what believe is a good master plan,” Capital Projects Director Rick Smith told the commissioners.
He said the commissioners will be asked to award a contract to Southeast Aquatics Group of Raleigh to build the 7,000-square-foot splash pad. If the commissioners approve, the splash pad should be completed by early June of next year, allowing nearly a full summer of use.
“That gives us a pretty good idea of what we have to accomplish in the next seven months,” Smith said of getting the project completed on time.
The cost of the proposed recreation center is higher than estimates from two years ago -- a reflection of what is happening in the construction industry. Smith that is also because the schematic plans have been updated.
The 26,500-square-foot facility will have two gyms with full-size basketball courts that can be used as four volleyball courts, a multipurpose room that can seat 100 people for classes and training, restrooms and a concession area, as well as offices for the Parks and Recreation staff. The multipurpose room could also be rented for meetings and other private events.
The facility can be expanded in the future to add a third gym.
Architect Rachel Guillot, with the firm of Clark, Patterson and Lee in Charlotte, said the new master plan is based on meeting the county’s needs for the next 30 years. She said it will improve traffic flow by making it one-way in and one-way out, as well as add more parking and improve existing parking.
If funding is available, the first phase of the plan also calls for a ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) playground, Guillot said.
The plan is contingent on the county relocating the solid waste collection site near the intersection of N.C. 22 and U.S. 15-501. That will provide a place for RV and bus parking when the park hosts regional baseball tournaments or other sporting events at the new recreation center.
Smith said the county hopes to have construction documents completed and be ready to seek bids during the first quarter of 2019.
Parks and Recreation Director Billy Ransom said he is already working to attract tournaments for the new recreation center.
“We are really excited about the project,” said Larry Caddell, chairman of the county Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. “We thank the commissioners for having the courage to step up and fund this.”
Caddell, who is a former commissioners’ chairman, said they are aware of the pressure facing the county on building new schools and a new courthouse. He said many times the kids involved in the recreation programs get pushed to the bottom of the list.
“You have taken them to the top of the list,” he said. “We are going to be able to offer so many more things that we can’t now. It’s kind of going to make this park whole.
“If we do this right, it is going to be absolutely beautiful. When the master plan is complete, it will rival anyone’s anywhere.”
He said that when regional baseball tournaments are played at Hillcrest, they have to use other facilities such as the gym at Pinecrest High School for kickoff events and awards ceremonies. He said they will now be able to that in the new recreation center.
Caddell pointed out that the county has allocated $827,000 in proceeds from the sale of three pieces of property for the project. The owners wanted the proceeds to help parks and recreation program.
Caddell added that the third one came about after a story appeared in The Pilot in May about the plans for Hillcrest Park. A family donated a lot and home in Pinehurst No. 6 that was sold for $208,000.
Vest revealed during the meeting that the county plans to sell the site of the old West End gym, which could generate another $253,000 for this project. He said 5.75-acre site, which has three dilapidated buildings on it, was appraised for $403,000. Vest said it will cost an estimated $150,000 to demolish the existing buildings.
He added that the county will seek to have the property rezoned for commercial use, and that the future widening of N.C. 211 could make the property even more valuable.
“I really think the property will bring more than that,” he said of the appraisal.
The funding plan also calls for the Moore County Parks and Recreation Foundation to raise at least $350,000 privately for the project.
“We want this to be a public-private partnership,” Caddell said. “We believe somewhere out there, there is someone who wants to give money for this project. We are going to go raise the money.”
Caddell said it does not have to one or two large donations. He said if 250 people contributed $1,000, that would raise $200,000.
Vest said the county has also been talking with potential corporate sponsors, such as First Bank and Pinehurst Resort.
Caddell said Hillcrest Park will become another drawing card to attract more families with young children to Moore County, as well as more regional tournaments.
“With these tournaments, we fill up every hotel room in Moore County,” he said. “You figure what the impact will be to the economy of the area. … We can generate a lot of income to help support all of this.”
Board Chairwoman Catherine Graham said she was almost as excited about the project as Caddell.
“That is absolutely a beautiful building that will represent Moore County well,” she said of the recreation center.
Graham said she also sees this is as “a plus” for the central and northern part of the county, which will benefit from the facility. She said she could someday see a new hotel being built in the Carthage area because of the regional sporting events that will be held at the park.
“I think this is going to make a huge impact on the kids of Moore County,” Caddell said. “Maybe it will keep a few of them out of this facility we are in now.”
The commissioners were meeting in the Rick Rhyne Public Safety Center, which includes the detention center.
In response to a question from Graham, Caddell said there is not enough land to add soccer fields.
“If we had six or seven soccer fields, we would have it all,” he said.
Vest assured the commissioners that the county will have the funding to pay for the project.
The commissioners previously voted to take $2.7 million from its capital reserve fund as well as another $200,000 from its reserves for the project.
Vest said the county had another “great fiscal year” in 2018 with revenues exceeding expenditures, which will allow the county to allocate another $962,700 from its budget surplus for the project.
With the approval of the contract for the splash pad Tuesday night and the $245,000 already spent to hire an architect to design the recreation center and update the master plan, the county expects to have $4.7 million available to pay for the center.
Vest said that even though the architects have estimated it will cost about $5.5 million to build the facility, he is optimistic they can bring down the costs.
“I think we can get there,” he said of having enough funding for the project.
Vest added that the Parks and Recreation Foundation also hopes to exceed the $350,000 fundraising goal.
He said the new facility will also be equipped with generators so it can be used as a shelter during weather emergencies.
“This will be a great facility to have in those times,” he said. “It will help with public safety.”
Vest said this will be a good investment for the county.
“This is going to be a great draw for Moore County,” Vest said. “It is going to be a great facility. It has been an inch-by-inch project. It is coming together nicely. We are almost there, just a few more inches to go.”