BY SARAH GREGORY
The Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen continued discussions but took no action on a capital budget plan at the board's regular meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The capital budget plan, which was also recently discussed in a meeting of the Greeneville Budget and Finance Committee, dealsl with what City Administrator Todd Smith calls "the most immediate needs" of the Town in terms of buildings and equipment that he believes will help the Town continue to provide high-quality public services.
Proposed projects are purchase of a new fire engine to replace aging apparatus at the Greeneville Fire Department; upgrading of Fire Station #2, at 501 Asheville Hwy.; an EastView Pool project; completing the Fairgrounds Road connector road; and the potential creation of a new dog park and disc golf course at the site of an old landfill on Whirlwind Road.
The estimated cost for all the projects, if undertaken, is $1,864,000, he said.
"We've got some flexibility to finance these projects, yet pay a portion of that down," Smith said, noting that several funding options exist.
"We can bundle these together, or we can separate these out," he said.
Smith asked the board for a prioritized list of projects so that he can move toward getting more specific numbers and financing options.
"We know several of these projects are very much needed right now," said Alderman Darrell Bryan.
Aldermen agreed on the need to place the purchase of a new fire engine, renovation of Fire Station #2, and the EastView Pool project at the top of the priorities list.
The Fairgrounds Road connector project, however, may be removed from the proposed plan, since an alternate source of funding may exist.
Smith said he will work with Public Works Director Brad Peters to determine whether state funds can be used for that project.
DOG PARK, DISC GOLF
Aldermen discussed the potential to transform the former site of a landfill on Whirlwind Road into a new dog park and disc golf course.
Smith pointed out that because of the site's former purpose, there are "heavy restrictions" on what it can now be used for.
For example, no residential or commercial structures may be built on the property.
The proposal being considered would transform three acres into a fenced-in area for citizens to bring their dogs for off-leash exercise and play.
Another area of the site would have fairways mowed to accommodate play of "disc golf" -- a sport similar to golf in scoring, but played with flying discs aimed at targets.
It was noted that the property could also have trails for nature walks, etc. if the board so desired.
"It's a beautiful site," said Parks and Recreation Director Butch Patterson, noting the scenic mountain views that surround the property.
"We've got 34 acres just sitting there," he said.
Patterson also mentioned that the idea of a dog park was something that has been discussed by the Board in previous years.
Patterson also spoke about the proposal to renovate EastView Pool to accommodate the installation of splash pads -- underground devices that spray water upwards and come in a variety of styles, similar to playground equipment.
He noted that the pool is losing approximately $12,000 per year, explaining that pool chemicals and utility bills -- such as water and electricity -- cost approximately $16,000 to $17,000 per year.
The pool is also in need of a new liner, which could cost as much as $75,000 to $90,000, according to some estimates.
The splash pad installation would cost an estimated $250,000, but, if approved, would likely result in long-term savings compared with the upkeep of a traditional swimming pool.
"There is no doubt. You are going to save money [by transforming the pool into a splash pad]," Patterson said.
He also noted the opportunity for revenue, as the facility could charge an admission fee if the board so desired. It could also be rented out for parties.
Another benefit to the splash pads, according to Patterson, is the opportunity to keep them operational through late September.
Patterson said that the Town's pools begin closing or reducing their hours in August as school begins again.
He stated that that's a missed opportunity for citizens to enjoy cooling off during what, he said, is one of the hottest months of the year.
FIRE STATION UPGRADES
In discussion about the potential upgrades to Fire Hall #2, Alderman Sarah Webster commended Greeneville Fire Department Chief Mark Foulks for "coming up with a forward-thinking plan."
Webster pointed to the estimated $500,000 renovation cost compared with an estimated $1.2 million to $1.5 million construction cost for a new facility.
The upgrade suggested by Foulks, Webster said, "is definitely designed for the future" and not just a temporary fix.
The upgrade would create an access behind the building and house the fire truck apparatus in bays on the lower level.
Currently, the trucks are placed on the upper level, which has a concrete floor that is "crumbling" and, for that reason, preventing use of one of the three truck bays.
"Keeping fire engines downstairs makes perfect sense to me," Webster said, "because they're so heavy. They're about to go through the floor upstairs."
The redesign would transform the upper level into living quarters for firefighters, who work in 24-hour shifts.
Currently, firefighters have only 850 square-feet of living quarters.
"The sleeping arrangements in that place have been horrendous," Webster stated.
"I think it's a safety issue for our guys," said Alderman Buddy Hawk. Other board members expressed agreement.
Webster suggested that the fire station upgrade and purchase of a new fire engine be given top priority by the Town.
"I would like to see those things at the top of the list," she said.
"But I would also like to see what the financial planners tell us when you get specific numbers," she told Smith.
FURTHER CONSIDERATION COMING
Bryan, who serves as chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, said that the recommendation from that group is "instead of nickel and dime [spending] on this stuff, let's go ahead and put it in a project and do it," depending on the condition of the Town's fund balance and what financing options are available.
After several minutes of discussion, Daniels said "I think this is really good," but noted that the request needed to have financial numbers refined and brought back to the board for further consideration.
Smith said he will take the options to the Stephens Group, which provides financial consultation services to the board, to refine the cost estimates.
He explained that he will present a proposal to the board at a later meeting as the fiscal year 2014 budget process continues.