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The Zoo City Sportsplex grand opening is scheduled for May 4.

Amid questions, concerns, here’s a projects update

ASHEBORO — A change order request for work at the Zoo City Sportsplex drew questions from members of the Asheboro City Council during a special called meeting on Feb. 23.


The list of projects by Terry’s Plumbing, the general contractor at the complex, included work that had been completed even though the City Council had not approved it. That brought questions from Joey Trogdon. 


“Why approve work that’s already been done?” he asked. “We need all the information on the change order request.”


Debbie Reaves, the city’s finance officer, confirmed that some of the work done had not been formally approved by the City Council. There had been talks among city staff and Terry Tucker, owner of Terry’s Plumbing, and he “believed the items were approved,” Reaves said. “The change orders (from Tucker) were delayed in coming.”


To that, Trogdon said, “We have to be perfect. A wink-and-nod contract is not acceptable.”


Council member Kelly Heath asked, “Are change orders the way to do it?” 


Reaves responded that when there’s “a change of scope of a project, a change order is not the proper way to go. A couple of (other) vehicles could have been used.” But she reassured the council that “any decision today (on the sportsplex or McCrary Ballpark) will be paid for by a state grant.” 


When questioned more by council members, Reaves said, “The ideal would be to have a change order approved by the council. We do need to improve the process.”


A motion to approve the change orders passed by a 4-2 margin, with Trogdon and Heath both saying they voted no based on the process but not against paying for the work.


The change order listed 14 items amounting to a total of $872,544, including $632,604 to change a 1.5-mile walking trail around the complex from dust to concrete. City Engineer Michael Leonard said recent heavy rains caused much runoff along the trail, making it clear that concrete would be a better option. Walker Moffitt, mayor pro tem, said concrete would “be cheaper in the long run.”


Terry’s Plumbing also listed 11 items to deduct from the Sportsplex contract, amounting to $430,910. 


The council also approved an ordinance to amend the State Capital Infrastructure Grant Fund. The NC Office of State Management and Budget had issued $2.5 million to the city for capital improvements or equipment. The ordinance added the funds to the Zoo City Sportsplex project. Another ordinance added $619,644, which represents the $430,910 deduction by Terry’s Plumbing, and another $178,000 for completion of the interior of a recreation administration building at the Sportsplex.


Jonathan Sermon, director of Cultural and Recreation Services, said the grand opening of the Sportsplex has been scheduled for May 4.


However, use of the playing fields has been ongoing. Mayor David Smith said the Piedmont Triad Soccer Club had used seven of the eight fields the previous weekend with 70 teams participating and all 700 parking spaces utilized. Smith said the city received $8,000 for the two days and that all hotels in the city have been booked for the next tournament.


“This is what we built it for, economic development,” Smith said. “Our biggest problem is there are not enough weekends for those who want to use it.”


In other business, the council heard updates on several ongoing projects.


McCrary Park renovations

The city council received a summary of work being done at McCrary Ballpark. Completed work includes:

— Replacing the sod field with turf.

— Rebuilding the grandstand.

— New field lighting.

— Dugouts.

— Restrooms.

— Concession stands.

— Brick and metal fencing.

Still to be done is:

— Expanding and paving the parking lot.

— Parking lot lighting.

— Installation of the sound system.

Still unfunded items are:

— Re-erecting the beer garden.

— Construction of an umpire changing room building.

— Purchase of a batting tunnel or cages.

— Signage along I-73/74.


Public Transportation System

Council members heard plans and alternatives for a public transportation system.

Known as the Zoo City Loop, the bus route, as proposed, would have 20 stops and have two buses running concurrently during weekdays.

The estimated cost for the first year is $834,000, including purchase of four vehicles. $440,000 of that would come from the NC Department of Transportation with the city responsible for $394,000 for improvements to stops, charging infrastructure and administration. Cost for the second year is estimated at $210,000.

Approval by the state for the grant has yet to be received but it’s expected soon. It would require a significant local match.

Heath asked if businesses and organizations located at the stops should be asked to help sponsor the bus route. Trevor Nuttall, director of community development, said they could be approached about helping with funding or by building bus shelters at their locations.

An alternative could be a micro-transit solution such as Uber or Lyft but Nuttall said an investigation showed that such an alternative has not proven to be less costly.


Third fire station

Fire Chief Willie Summers delivered an update on the proposed Emergency Operations Center/Third Fire Station.

Summers said it was determined that the city needs a third station by looking at response times and call volumes during recent years. The need is most essential in the southeastern section of the city, particularly with the NC Zoo to be annexed this summer.

The city has acquired 2.5 acres at the juncture of Zoo Parkway and Crestview Church Road. Plans call for a building of 18,000 square feet with three truck bays, with 12,000 square feet as living quarters for the crews. Cost is estimated at $12 million, including a $3 million FEMA grant and another $1.9 million from the state.

Summers said they have looked at reducing the size of the building and other alternatives. But council members said that with the anticipated future growth in Asheboro and Randolph County, the Emergency Operations Center and Fire Station should not be reduced in size nor response times.


Center City Garden 

Council members discussed the proposed Jarrell Center City Garden on 3.5 acres bounded by Worth, Cox and Main streets.

Nuttall said no grant funds for the project have been found available so far. The total estimated cost of the plan is $1,450,625. That does not include a visitor center.


Trade Street project

Council members were told that the proposed Trade Street project has an overall cost of $1.65 million, not including another $150,000 to property owners who would need to make changes to connect to receive new underground power.

The state has granted $1.15 million to the project, leaving the city with a responsibility of up to $650,000.


Downtown parking

The City Council looked at creating more downtown parking and two in-ground dumpsters between Trade and Fayetteville streets. Cost is expected to be $71,000.

This project would need to be completed prior to the Trade Street project.


Prioritizing projects

Council members went through a project prioritization process with Matt Reece of the Piedmont Triad Regional Council.

Reece led a discussion of how to set priorities for projects in the city by ranking them based upon their perceived importance and urgency.

The council agreed that the third fire station ranks high followed by Trade Street parking and public transportation.