Town’s Community Park to get facelift

Dobbins Heights officials plan $120,000 loan to fund improvements

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Related coverage
* July 16: Food, fun and games
* July 10: Council votes to keep hoops court closed
* June, 2014: Basketball court ‘dangerous’

DOBBINS HEIGHTS — The basketball court isn’t the only part of the Dobbins Heights Community Park that needs attention.

Town of Dobbins Heights officials came under fire this time last year when resident Quentin Gore, then 19, expressed concern about the court’s “dangerous” condition. The controversy was made worse when Mayor Antonio Blue, citing safety concerns and liability issues, moved to close the court — without council approval — until improvements could be made. Gore and others spoke against the executive action, but Blue earned unanimous support from the Town Council to keep the courts closed.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com The basketball court at Dobbins Heights Community Park is in pretty bad shape, but the tennis court pictured above is even worse.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
The basketball court at Dobbins Heights Community Park is in pretty bad shape, but the tennis court pictured above is even worse.

Blue drew fire again last August, when he turned down a donation of Quality Pavement Repair that Gore had arranged through his employer, Lowe’s in Rockingham. Blue’s reasoning then was that he and Town Council members had agreed to “fix it right.”

Efforts to solicit donations or grants have fallen though, but town officials are following through on their pledge to fix the basketball court — and more — by taking out a $120,000 loan in the proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget. Council members are expected to adopt the budget at the next public meeting scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on June 25. The loan would be repaid in six annual installments of $21,600 — or $1,800 each month.

The requested funds for Parks and Recreation in FY 2016 total $39,288 — an increase of nearly 61 percent, or $14,875, from the current year. That doesn’t include an additional $1,470 — a total of $5,670, up from $4,200 — from the county commissioners. The town boasted 866 residents — with 31 percent, or 268, of those residents being under the age of 18.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 5.53.36 PMTown Clerk Mary Magee said Thursday the loan should cover all the necessary improvements to the park, including repairs to the basketball and tennis courts as well as the playground. Councilman Tyre’ Holloway said the funds also would cover the redrawing of the town’s baseball and softball fields, and improve the security fencing around the park’s perimeter. Blue previously said that to properly repair the basketball court would cost approximately $50,000; Holloway acknowledged the bulk of the $120,000 loan would pay for the basketball court repair.

“Thirty years ago, all of this was functional and on any given day the park would be full,” Holloway said. “That’s our goal … to revitalize our park so it can be the park again. I think that the citizens … and adjoining communities will be pleased.”

In July 2014, town officials hired Zacchaeus Legal Services to aid in the collection of delinquent property taxes. Collection was roughly 50 percent when Blue took over as mayor seven years ago; it was 63.18 percent in in FY 2013. There remains nearly $250,000 in delinquent taxes.

Holloway said the primary method of paying the loan back will be to increase property tax collection. He also proposes a concession stand at the park to sell refreshments.

Loan repayment, Holloway said, “is probably one of the more daunting parts of this whole venture. I think we can come up with a plan.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com With the new Community Center in the background, the dilapidated basketball court at the Dobbins Heights Community Park is expected to be repaired soon.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
With the new Community Center in the background, the dilapidated basketball court at the Dobbins Heights Community Park is expected to be repaired soon.

Blue said the park improvements could be finished later this summer — perhaps in time for the annual Community Safe Celebration sponsored by the Alcohol and Drug Services and Citizens of Richmond for Responsible Living. This year’s event is to be staged from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22.

The Community Park improvements coincide with the planned opening of the new Community Center. The federally funded project was awarded to Hawks Builders, of Rockingham. Hawks workers finished in December. Since then, Blue said, “everything that can go logistically wrong, has went wrong.”

The $500,000 project is fully funded by a federal Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Blue said the money comes from a Raleigh office, and vendors don’t purchase equipment or supplies until they have a check in hand.

The 4,000-square-foot building consists of two small multipurpose rooms, a larger multipurpose room and a warming kitchen with a serving window. The building has an expandable wall for future expansion. The building has an office for staff and a covered entrance to allow for dry, safe drop-offs and pick-ups despite inclement weather.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Dobbins Heights resident Joe Young, along with Pastor Victor Robinson of St. Mary's Holiness Church in Hamlet, spearheaded the collection of donations for this $5,000 playground piece at Dobbins Heights Community Park earlier this spring.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Dobbins Heights resident Joe Young, along with Pastor Victor Robinson of St. Mary’s Holiness Church in Hamlet, spearheaded the collection of donations for this $5,000 playground piece at Dobbins Heights Community Park earlier this spring.

The center will have offer Wi-Fi for Internet users. Large, flat-panel televisions already hang on the walls.

Blue said there have been numerous delays — some predictable, perhaps, and some not. A water fountain leaked for eight hours and caused floor damage, he said. It took several failed attempts for a Laurinburg vendor to offer even an estimate to install the necessary wiring for the audio system inside the multipurpose room. Blue said Joey Bennett, director of the Cole Auditorium in Hamlet, proved helpful in pointing him in the right direction to a reliable vendor who offered the estimate and completed the work as promised.

Then there’s an ongoing delay with Time Warner, Blue said. Blue said he began talking with company representatives in March to install cable and Internet service. The idea is to make the adjacent Community Park a Wi-Fi hotspot, but Blue said Time Warner first gave him an estimate of August before the job could be completed. Blue said the company now has told him on or about July 7.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Town of Dobbins Heights officials broke ground on May 1, 2014 for the planned Community Center. It could open by the end of the month.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Town of Dobbins Heights officials broke ground on May 1, 2014 for the planned Community Center. It could open by the end of the month.

He doesn’t want to open the building before it’s ready — though the occupancy permit is in hand, Blue said. The building has no desks or furniture — it’s coming from Carthage — and the 12 computers already have arrived.

Blue also said he’s awaiting delivery of the flagpole and looking for a vendor who can provide a plaque to be placed inside the building.

 

 

 

Filed in: Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors, Sports

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  • urconcience

    No no no to the loan. Why should the taxpayers have to pay for the MAYORS. Incompetent decision to have the DONATED material returned.
    Let’s not forget the incompetent MAYORS reasoning as well.
    He said he knew, and/ or could get PRO ATHLETES to donate the monies.
    Damn it! Go get the money MAYOR.
    Again the tax payers should not have to pay for this.

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