Stallings rejects proposal to start second phase of park plan, pays off town hall instead
The Stallings town council decided to save money, rather than spend it, rejecting an idea to start the second phase of their park plan three years early. In August, the town’s Parks and Recreation committee proposed spending one million dollars now to save money and time on finishing Phase Two of Stallings Municipal Park. The same construction group currently working on Phase One of the project has said they’re willing to work on Phase Two at the same time. Plans for Phase Two call for an expanded parking lot, additional playground equipment, a new picnic shelter and handicap accessible bathrooms.
That includes less cost, as committee members anticipate if the second phase is completed now, the town would spend no more than the allotted $1 million. In 2014, when the second phase is currently scheduled to begin, that wouldn’t be the case.
That money would come however from dollars already allocated, set aside to finish paying off the town hall. Council members said after a few weeks of looking at the proposal, they weren’t comfortable with delaying the debt payoff.
“The thing about paying off town hall, the reason we agreed to do it is (that) we save over $30,000 per year,” council member Paul Frost said. That’s the amount of interest generated each year on the town’s current loan. If Stallings used that money on the park instead, not only would it take longer to pay off town hall, but the budget would have to be redone, Frost said, as the town hadn’t taken the extra interest into account.
“I’m not in favor of that,” Frost said. “We’re losing money that way.”
The town originally set aside a $1.5 million budget for Stallings Municipal Park improvements. In October, the board voted unanimously to add $154,000 to cover the additional costs. However due to economic conditions and built-in contingencies, officials may yet return part of that money to the general fund.
Mayor Lynda Paxton said the cost was too high to start Phase Two, especially with so many other issues up in the air right now.
“To spend $1 million to expand parking seems extravagant,” Paxton said. “The town of Matthews has a huge Labor Day event and people park all over town. To me, this is a huge request and I’m not sure that it’s wise.”
Paxton pointed out the town still hadn’t figured out how to pay for a proposed sports complex or even if they will agree to move forward with the idea.
Council member Harry Stokes, who was in favor of the proposal, pointed out that the council isn’t really saving money by not agreeing to fund Phase Two. Current economic conditions make it possible to get the entire Phase Two section finished for $1 million or less, town manager Brian Matthews had informed the board in August. A year from now, that might not be the case. Also, Stokes said, it’s hard to compare with Matthews, as Stallings doesn’t have a finished streetscape plan.
“The problem with Matthews is the connectivity,” Stokes said, adding that it was a lot safer for someone to walk down Trade Street in Matthews than to try and cross Monroe Road.
“I do understand it’s a lot of money, I do understand there are other projects on the table,” Stoke said.
Current proposal not valid
Another argument for moving forward with Phase Two was that the town wouldn’t have to shut down the park as long. If the town keeps their plan to start in 2014, they would have to shut down for six months while the work is done. If both phases are done together, it would cut down on the time and the upgrades would be completed by Spring 2012.
The problem is that legally, both phases can’t be done together.
“We did have our attorney look into the process,” Matthews said. “It’s too large of a project to be considered an addition.”
Instead, the project would have to be put out for bid, Matthews said. If the current construction group is the lowest bidder, then it could be completed at the same time. But if another group comes in lower, the town would have to take that bid, eliminating the cost savings.
With little cost savings, council members said it made no sense to switch.
“This council voted to pay off the (town hall),” council member Reed Esarove said. “I think we should pay off the building and save the interest expense. That way we’re debt free.”
Parks and Rec rolls out new projects
The Parks and Rec committee hopes to raise money through a new partnership with local restaurants.
“The plan is to do one a month, where we do the advertising for them, then they give 10 percent of their proceeds to Parks and Rec,” committee chair Tracie Frost said.
Those proceeds will be used to create community programs, Frost added.
“I’m talking mothers’’ walking groups, medicare classes, babysitting classes,” Frost said, adding she had several companies sign up already.
“Things are really moving along, we’re very excited,” Frost said.