PRESTONSBURG — The city council pored over detailed plans for a proposed community and wellness center Monday night, but hesitated when it came time to decide whether or not to buy a piece of property for the project.
Architect Kevin Gilliam, of Summit Engineering, gave a presentation about his group’s recent feasibility study of the center. Tentative plans that he showed council members included a 40,000 square foot facility, with the option of adding a 25,000 square foot swimming pool area.
Gilliam said the building’s design would remain the same, with or without the swimming pool. He said it was designed that way to give the city the option of having it or leaving it out.
“Pools break even, if you’re lucky,” Gilliam said. “Pools aren’t a big moneymaker.”
The pool area would be on the first floor and enclosed in glass. It would feature a retractable roof to allow it to be open-air during summer months. The pool itself would be half the size of an Olympic pool, and would be conducive to high school swim meets
Plans for the rest of the first floor would include basketball courts, meeting and party rooms, an arcade, a concession stand, a day care center, a common area forum and a rock-climbing wall. The building’s second floor would house another basketball court and a fitness, encircled by an indoor walking track, as well as racquetball courts.
The building itself would be constructed according to LEEDS standards, which would lower operating costs. The pool area, for example, would not require heating and cooling, because the glass would trap heat in the winter while the open roof would cool it in the summer.
Outside the center, there would be space for an amphitheater as well as wraparound parking for 70 or 80 cars. The building itself would be elevated 8-to-12 feet above North Lake Drive to get it out of the floodplain, creating another 20,000 square feet for additional parking or an archery range on the ground level of the facility.
Gilliam estimated the cost of the basic building would be between $7 million and $8 million, while the swimming pool would add $3 million more.
Much of Gilliam’s talk centered on the old Prestonsburg Elementary property, which he said was the most favored location during public meetings on the project. He said the site had the added advantage of requiring very little site preparation work, lowering costs at the location.
“Your site costs [at the school property] are basically the lowest I’ve ever worked with,” Gilliam said. “It’s net-zero.”
Still, not all council members were sold on the prospect of buying the school property at this time.
“I’m for the center, but I can’t vote to buy this property, knowing there are other sites we haven’t even considered,” Councilman Les Stapleton said.
Gilliam reiterated that the school site was the location having the most support in the community and cautioned that other sites could have unidentified issues which could increase site preparation costs.
The council has recently been exploring the option of doubling its current $1 million debt to $2 million to pay for the center, as well as take advantage of lower interest rates, and last month received bids on that debt restructuring. An analysis of the bids Monday night revealed that the city’s monthly payment would go down $400, although the debt would be extended 20 years from now.
Councilman B.D. Nunnery, however, said he was not sure if the school property is worth the $1 million price the city would have to pay, considering it sold two years ago for half that much. He said he could not understand why the city is willing to pay $1 million now, when it was not willing to pay $500,000 when it was sold the first time.
“It appears we’re rushing out to borrow $2 million and binding the city in debt for 20 years,” Nunnery said.
Mayor Jerry Fannin, however, said the property recently appraised for $1.3 million. He added that, had the city purchased the property for $500,000 two years ago, it would likely have spent close to the other $500,000 in demolition and prep costs that have been performed on the site since that time.
In the end, however, the council voted not to take any action on the securing money for the property, instead directing the city to look at the feasibility of other properties, including a site at Big Sandy Community and Technical College, another along Stephens Branch, and a third option, proposed by Councilman Harry Adams, of the old Jerry’s Restaurant property.
“Let’s go shopping!” Adams said, as a motion to delay moving forward on financing received unanimous approval.
All council members except Tim Cooley were present for Monday’s meeting.