Council agrees on sports complex

May. 15, 2014 @ 07:57 AM

A market analysis and feasibility study for a 21st-century multi-sport park complex, which would connect Carolina Central Community College, O.T. Sloan Park and Horner Boulevard, was a primary discussion topic at the city’s Law and Finance Committee meeting Wednesday.

Sanford Mayor Chet Mann asked the committee to appropriate $15,000 to fund the project. Such a complex is mentioned in Mann’s “Open for Business” initiative, which proposes leveraging parks and recreation bond funds to acquire grant funding.

“We need to know how, when, what,” Mann said. “Would the public be receptive? How to manage it? How to design it?”

He added, “We’d be able to create this walkable area to connect the community college to O.T. Sloan, to Horner Boulevard and the hotels. Hundreds of people could come for tournaments and overnight events ... It would provide a great quality-of-life component for the area.

”He estimated that it would cost in the neighborhood of $30,000 to complete the study, and that the remaining funds would come from the Sanford Area Soccer League and Lee County. The county has not guaranteed any financial support, but County Manager John Crumpton said the three members of the board who attended the initial discussion were open to bringing it to the other commissioners, which Crumpton plans to do during the board’s May 22 meeting. The SASL already has pledged $5,000 dollars to the project, according to league President Erin Borrell, and may contribute more from the league’s Grow, Build, Play Campaign.

“We have always had an end goal in mind of a new facility for us,” Borrell said. “We are outgrowing where we are. It really worked out for us to be able to donate to help this feasibility study.”

While the council was in agreement that a new sports complex would be of great benefit to the city and that a feasibility study is necessary, there was one issue on which it was closely divided — whether or not to open city council meetings with prayer.

“I hope we can go back to our former practice of having an invocation seated and then standing for the Pledge of Allegiance,” Mann said. “I’d like to see it brought back for the next council meeting.”

Norman Chas Post III was the first to speak up in opposition to the practice of opening city council meetings with an invocation, which the council replaced with a moment of silence a few years ago.

“I’m a Christian. I’m a man of God,” Post said. “But I believe prayer is something personal. It should be kept between yourself and whoever you are praying to. I believe possibly having a Christian prayer where everyone is forced to listen may infringe on other people’s rights.”

Rebecca Wyhof and Samuel Gaskins both concurred with Post, saying that the council’s current practice of starting meetings with a moment of silence is more appropriate.

Councilmen Charles Taylor and James Williams both spoke in favor of returning to the original practice of using a short invocation to open the meetings.

City Attorney Susan Patterson said that the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the Town of Greece, N.Y. versus Galloway case made legislative prayer constitutional, but that it could go too far if it denigrates nonbelievers or minorities or preaches damnation or conversion.

“I believe in prayer for you and prayer for me,” Mann said after the rest of the council had the chance to voice their thoughts on the subject. “I was hoping to get a consensus vote on this, but I might not get that.”

Other items the council addressed include:

•Interim Planning Director Marshall Downey asked the council to consider a number of options to deal with possible changes to the city’s Unified Development Ordinances and the city’s non-residential corridors.

City Attorney Hal Hegwer asked that the fee be waived for Central Carolina Community College to host a fireworks display operator training, saying that it would benefit Sanford’s fire personnel and would cost the town nothing.

*Downey asked for $15,195 in funds to raze four houses that are slated for demolition.

*Taylor asked the council to consider hearing reports filed after a 5-2 vote for a request for information regarding Sanford Municipal Golf Course last September.

*Mann asked the council to consider hosting representatives from Yixing, a Chinese city interested in becoming Sanford’s sister city.