The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 20th

County Commissioners Ask Town Officials To Provide Additional Funds for Gym

The Chapel Hill Town Council expected to finance one-third of the $750,000 cost and had originally requested the county to cover one-third as well. The remaining portion of the tab, $250,000, was paid for by East West Developers, the developer of Meadowmont, a mixed-use development.

The facility, which will be completed with the school in 2003, was part of a program to save costs by locating public recreational facilities on school property.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Flicka Bateman expressed disappointment at what she described as a change of heart among the county commissioners.

But Bateman said the Town Council is willing to consider the extra funding because of the gymnasium's benefits.

"I think this is going to work out because I think the town sees this as an opportunity to provide the southeastern part of town with a gym at a lower cost." Bateman said.

Evans said the Town Council will vote on the additional expenditure soon but that the project would go forward one way or another.

"I think that co-locating recreational facilities in schools has worked out well, and we will continue doing that."

During the planning stages of the facility, the Town Council agreed to provide $250,000 of the extra costs to encourage the school to consider building the gym.

An additional $250,000 was rerouted by East West Developers during the project's planning stages to fund the gym.

The additional money was originally slated to finance smaller projects at the school.

Over the summer, the town and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools negotiated splitting the remaining cost of the gym, provided the Homestead Aquatic Center was also included in the deal.

Local officials had plans to share the two facilities. The aquatic center is included on the commissioner's $75 million bond package for the Nov. 6 ballot.

But the commissioners said at their Tuesday night meeting that there would be no extra funding to contribute to the project.

Gordon pointed out that the school's requests for funding from the Nov. 6 bond referendum had already been cut by almost $900,000, leaving them in a tight place financially.

The bond proposes $47 million for the construction of two new elementary schools in Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools and one new middle school in Orange County Schools. Residents will vote on the bond Nov. 6.

Gordon also said that although the town would have to provide the additional $250,000, more money for recreational purposes will be provided if the bond referendum passes.

The county has allotted $20 million on the ballot for parks, recreation and open space.

But Town Council member Pat Evans said it is more cost-effective to create one building to meet the needs of students and town residents.

"It's $750,000 over the cost of a multi-purpose room, whereas a freestanding gym would cost a couple million dollars," Evans said.

But Evans said it will not be easy for the town to provide the extra funding. "Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money," she said. "That's about a penny on the tax rate.

"We can probably do it by delaying other projects, but we don't have that kind of money just sitting around."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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