Christiansburg leaders have agreed to a short-term option for a 70-acre park along Peppers Ferry Road.
Tuesday night, town council members heard three different proposals from Treasurer Valerie Tweedie and that it could finally get the project off the ground.
The proposed Truman Wilson Park would be located behind Home Depot and Walmart. Four years ago, the town received public comment asking the town to build an outdoor attraction that would provide open space for walking, a dog park, an outdoor amphitheatre, a splash park and as many as three multi-purpose fields.
But council members have debated the overall cost for almost a year, which is estimated to be $33 million or more. Councilman Brad Stipes said now is the time to make a decision on whether to build the park or stick a for sale sign on it. From that discussion, the governmental body asked Tweedie to assemble several funding alternatives.
In December, the group requested phasing options with a high priority to open space and trails, rectangular fields and an all-access playground, accompanied by estimated project costs and financial models.
The first option includes construction of a road into the park, three multi-purpose Astro-turf fields, small and large dog park, an inclusive playground, a maintenance shed and soccer concessions and restrooms at an overall price of $16.12 million.
One of the largest expenditures in all three plans is the earthwork and demolition of the entire site with a price of just over $2 million.
Option two would eliminate some amenities and cut the cost to approximately $14.88 million, and a third option would decrease the price tag to $8.9 million and remove the three multi-purpose fields.
Councilman Steve Huppert said the project must include the three fields.
“That’s how we’re going to make some money back for the project by renting the fields out for tournaments for soccer and lacrosse. Any plan must include these fields,” he said.
Tweedie said it’s very important to understand these estimates were based on conceptual drawings that have not been fully designed or engineered.
“But they do give us something to discuss and possibly move forward with,” she said. “Estimated engineering, architectural and other professional fees are in the $1 million range and will require that an RFP and bid for these services be done.”
Parks and recreation staffers have said they expect approximately $2 million could be raised for the project through sponsorships with another $1 million coming directly connected to the “special needs” playground.
Council newcomer Marisa Sachs questioned the overall amount and was fearful of what the expense could mean for citizens.
“I think the park is a great idea, but can we afford it? Can the residents of this town afford it?” she said.
Tweedie pointed out that an estimated $1 million has already been set-aside in reserves within the recreation department’s budget. Also, another $500,000 is earmarked through the general fund reserve account.
The treasurer estimated rental of the multi-purpose fields could net $110,000 per year over the first five years. Additionally, items associated with the rental could net the town additional funds that could help offset some of the expenses.
Option 1 could be funded, according to Tweedie, through $9 million in current funds and sponsorships. The remaining amount of $7.12 million could be financed through debt service with a 4.5 percent interest rate over 20 years.
“It is feasible and can be done if you want to continue with this option and project,” she said.
Council agreed in consensus to move forward with Option 1 and asked Tweedie to bring back tighter numbers and conceptual drawings of what was listed in Option 1.
This new part of the project could take up to six months with possible construction going out to bid by the end of the year. The earliest construction could still be a year or more out.
Stipes admitted this park had been on the verge of collapse, and council had spent a lot of time discussing it.
“Now, I think we are on a very good path for the realization of the park, and I have gotten a warm and fuzzy feeling after hearing these plans,” he said.
Sachs said she could move forward with the Option 1 plan.