By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: February 9, 2020 | 12:30 p.m.
Scott Park plans remain dividing point for county leaders
PRINCE GEORGE – County leaders narrowly approved moving forward with the development and construction of new restroom and concession facilities at Scott Park last week in what remains a point of contention for some supervisors who feel the money could be spent elsewhere.
Wrapping up their first pair of regular business meetings for 2020, supervisors voted 3-2 to award Oregon-based Romtec, Inc. the $110,789 contract to develop and install a pre-engineered, packaged building kit that will serve as the park’s newest set of restrooms, concession stand, and storage area in a section of the park that currently lacks access to those services.
While Supervisors Donald Hunter, Alan Carmichael, and Marlene Waymack all voted in favor of the motion, Supervisors T.J. Webb and Floyd Brown, Jr. were the pair of dissenting votes last week.
According to the company’s website, Romtec is a leader in developing pre-engineered structures, having designed and installed concession stands, restrooms, and a variety of other facilities across the county.
At last week’s meeting, a preliminary design was shared with supervisors, showing a nearly 29-foot by 25-foot floor plan for the facility, which includes a men’s and women’s restroom with multiple stalls and access for those with disabilities, a concession area with aluminum roll-up window and stainless steel counter, and an area for storage.
In addition, drinking fountains would be installed on the outside of the restroom-side walls, another amenity absent in the area of some of the park’s newest fields.
While Romtec has been tapped to design and ship the elements of the pre-engineered structure to Prince George, a contractor will likely be brought on to actually construct the concession stand and restroom facility, with a contract for that construction expected to be presented at a later date.
The funding from this project comes from the county’s Spring 2019 debt issuance, or borrowing where $450,000 was earmarked to fund the development and construction of the park’s new concession stand and restrooms. At that time, the proposal drew scrutiny from some supervisors, namely Brown and Webb, who believed that funding could have been used to fund other county needs.
During the board’s vote on the borrowing last year, with the almost $500,000 Scott Park project being part of the nearly $10 million bond issuance, both Webb and Brown voted against proceeding with the borrowing. In subsequent interviews, Supervisor Webb said he believed the money being spent on the concession stand and restrooms at the park could go toward something else, such as a proposal to develop a second convenience center in the county to better serve residents who have to commute to dispose of their trash – an idea that has failed to advance beyond the fact-finding phase since 2018.
“If you look at the two, to some of us, [the multipurpose building] is a ‘nice-to-have’ versus a need,” the supervisor said at the time, noting the uptick in litter in the county as an example of the need for a new convenience center.
Those sentiments were shared by then-Vice Chairman Brown, who stressed his support for the county’s parks and recreation while calling the proposed concession stand and restrooms a “nice-to-have” item.
“I do support recreation and I support a lot of things in the county but, I believe [the multi-purpose building] is a ‘nice-to-have,’” Brown said to The Prince George Journal at the time. “A lot of times, it is about timing and when we talk about how tight things are going to be and how tight they are, we need to be focused on what are the items that we really need.”
After the borrowing, he suggested some of that $450,000 be used for the development of a convenience center, saying at the time, “For me, that is a need. The residents have a need for that. There is no convenience station except for a 30-yard dumpster at the Burrowsville Community Center. We have a station in District 1, so for me, that is a need.”
One year later, the vote on moving forward with the new facility mirrored that of the borrowing and reimbursement motions in March of 2019, with both Webb and Brown voting against the measure.
“This goes to just being consistent with my thoughts on that,” Brown said of his vote last week. “Again, this $450,000 was the monies that we were hoping we could’ve had that public hearing on and redirected that money to aid in the school mold and CO2 issue, as well maybe purchase some additional trailers.”
The contract issuance for the materials comes just over a month after Webb’s proposal to go back to the public to suggest reallocating some of the money borrowed for the Scott Park concession stand project to help fund the school system’s roughly $170,000 request from the county to help pay for over $400,000 in planned HVAC repairs at Walton Elementary School, along with buying more trailers for the school system.
That proposal would fail as Supervisors Carmichael, Hunter, and Waymack all voted down the measure. While Carmichael was unavailable for comment after the December action, both Waymack and Hunter both stressed that their action should not be seen as them putting amenities at Scott Park above the needs at Walton Elementary and they felt the money could be found elsewhere.
In addition, Waymack said she had promised members of the community that she would work to make the facility a reality.
“Way back when we agreed to do this, I gave them my word I would do everything I could do to get bathrooms back there. I didn’t feel I could go back on my word,” she explained at the time.
Other monies were found within last year’s borrowing, specifically unspent and unallocated closing costs to the tune of roughly $160,000, that could be used to help fund the school system’s request, along with just short of $10,000 in SNAP Investment interest. A public hearing on the proposal is set for February 11.
In December, just before Christmas, Hunter said there shouldn’t be a situation where the county has to pick between continuing to develop Scott Park over addressing the needs at Walton, as both should be funded.
“You have got to have both,” he said. “We have to continue to improve the park and finish the park rather than having [it] halfway done and stop and we can afford to do that.”
Calls to both Chairman Hunter and Vice-Chairman Carmichael for comment on last week’s vote were not returned. In an interview last week, Brown said the needs of Walton and the school division, in his eyes, were “true needs.”
“I am not against recreation or against this but I think as a board, we have to be able to juggle and adapt to priorities,” he remarked. “I think we could get to the concession stand down the road but I think the bigger need at this time are those things related to the school and maybe some things that we don’t know about that might be related to the upkeep of some of the other buildings on the school side that we don’t know about.”
“This is money we have already borrowed and are already paying on. It seemed like it would have been better to repurpose this money to me,” Supervisor Brown closed.
Last year, at the time of the borrowing’s vote, Carmichael said moving forward with the Scot Park project was important in showing taxpayers in showing the county is finishing projects it started.
“In serving my 12th year on the board, we had decided years ago that citizens were tired of us starting projects and not finishing them,” he said. “Eight years ago we started that soccer complex at Scott Park and we gradually spoon-fed that project until it is now ready to have big tournaments, some in Jerry Skalsky’s name, state events, and other organizations coming in. There is no place to use the restroom or concessions and that was one of the projects that needed be finished this year in the borrowing.”
With the contract for the materials now approved, the next step of the project will likely be after those materials arrive when supervisors will have to award construction to a contractor, funded through the remaining $339,210 earmarked for the project.
Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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