The city could build an 11,000-square-foot addition to the community center, renovate two buildings for the city’s after-school programs and make related changes at the Ira Van Bullock Park site for about $2.7 million, Assistant City Manager Tom Lanahan told the city council recently.
Lananan presented the plan to the council March 4 as one possibility for expanding buildings used for community meetings, recreation and after-school programs at the 9.1-acre park site on the south side of 10th Avenue North between Swain Boulevard and Perry Avenue.
The council is expected to discuss more options and cost estimates, possibly at their April 15 meeting, before deciding whether to proceed with expansion plans.
The $2.7 million plan presented March 4 includes:
— Demolishing the Leisure Services administration building at 525 Swain Blvd. The 1981 building is the former home of the city’s police department.
— Moving the Leisure Services staff into an 11,000-square-foot addition to the community center. The new building would be west of the existing community center on the site of existing basketball courts. The community center buildings would share a common entrance.
— Renovating the community hall and the H-shaped 500 Perry Ave. building for after-school programs. A 2,000-square-foot addition would be added between the two buildings.
— Rebuilding the basketball courts north of the community center parking lot.
Financed for 20 years, the expansion plan would cost the city an estimated $190,000 annually — plus about $61,000 in annual maintenance and repair costs, Lanahan said. The cost of staffing the new buildings was not included in the estimate.
Mayor Sam Ferreri, an architect, suggested another plan that includes a constructing a two-story building for after-school programs to replace the old community hall and the 500 Perry Ave. site, adding a second story to the community center and keeping the Leisure Services administration building for use as an art studio that could be run by volunteers.
Ferreri estimated his plan would cost $500,000 more than the plan presented by Lanahan.
“If we build this right the first time, it will last another 30 to 40 years,” Ferreri said.
Some council members said this might be a good time to expand facilities at the park site because interest rates are low. But not all council members are anxious to borrow money.
“Borrowing is fast and easy. It is paying back that is long and troublesome,” Councilman Peter Noble said. He said he would like to pay for the work gradually from city budgets instead of borrowing money, assuming the council agrees on an expansion plan.
Councilman John Tharp said he needs to see a final plan and related costs before deciding whether to proceed. He said his preference would be “to find a way to renovate the community hall and community center without raising taxes.”
The council has held the tax rate at $5.65 per $1,000 in taxable value since 2010 despite a dramatic drop in the taxable value of property following the housing bust. This year’s city budget uses $144,247 from reserves and includes $1.9 million for capital improvements.
The city’s only outstanding debt is the $5.5 million borrowed to build the city hall and public works complex on Melaleuca Lane, which opened in 2007. The city is paying about $403,000 annually on that loan and has 11 years of payments remaining.