Wednesday, October 30, 2013

TOP STORY >> Cabot focuses on parks

Leader staff writer

The Cabot parks system is expanding with new fields at the softball park and a new combination baseball and water park, as well as an addition to the community center that will at last provide the space for a fitness area and banquet hall that has been talked about since the community center was completed seven years ago.

That means a potential for more revenue as well as more expenses, areas that parks director John Crow and parks commission chairwoman Maggie Cope say could use more input from the commission.

“I think the budget needs to be studied a little deeper,” Crow said Friday about the new committee of parks commission members that met for the first time last week. “With the expansion and the new facilities, we’re going to need more oversight. And, since we have people with experience in that area, why not take advantage of it?”

The committee is made up of Ken Kincade, an accountant; John C. Thompson, a banker, and Nick Whitaker, who works in sales for Twin City Trailer in North Little Rock.

Money for expansion of the parks comes from a one-cent sales tax approved by voters in April. The tax supports a $42 million bond issue for sewer improvements, a new freeway interchange, a new library and drainage work in the Highlands subdivision.

The bond issue includes $5.7 million to expand and renovate the community center and $13.5 million for parks improvements and the combination baseball and water park.

The commission also formed a committee to look into correcting issues with collecting membership fees for the community center, which Crow said has always been a problem, according to financial records.

Thompson and Dawn Beckley, who serve on that committee, have recommended discontinuing the installment payment plan for those memberships, except for electronic debits, which are essentially guaranteed payments.

A family plan is $360 a year, and it entitles members to everything the community center has to offer. It’s more economical for families, but the center is losing money because people don’t pay their membership fees, Crow said.

The new policy will be implemented after repairs at the community center are completed in mid-December. Parts of the center have been closed since July so the roof could be replaced.

There was technically nothing wrong with the tin roof, but it had to be removed because the screws that held it in place rusted from excess moisture caused by a faulty pool dehumidification system. The repair bill is expected to reach almost $800,000.