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Tuesday, 11 July 2017 17:08

Progress evident on Huntersville projects

Written by  Lee Sullivan
Work continues on the new Veterans Park at Main & Maxwell, a tribute to all six branches of the military. Work continues on the new Veterans Park at Main & Maxwell, a tribute to all six branches of the military. Lee Sullivan

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Construction on three municipal projects — each scheduled for completion by the end of 2017 — is progressing in Huntersville.

The exterior shells of both the recreation center on Verhoeff Drive and Huntersville Fire Department Station No. 4 on McIlwaine Road are basically complete, and the foundation for the centerpiece of Veterans Park at Main and Maxwell downtown is firmly installed.

All three town projects, financed primarily with funds generated from a multi-faceted $30 million bond package Huntersville voters approved in 2012, are proceeding on schedule, with the park due to host ceremonies on Veterans Day in November and the two new service facilities expected to be operational, at the latest, by Jan. 1, 2018.

All three projects were part of the town’s long-range plans for many years, and specifically highlighted in general outlines of potential bond-funded endeavors when the 2012 bond package — which included $17.85 million for transportation network improvements, $7.15 million for public facilities (two fire stations) and $5 million for parks and recreation projects — was initially introduced to Huntersville residents.

The estimated costs for each project also rose during the five-year period between 2012 and the first phases of construction earlier this year. Those rising costs, attributed in part to a steady uptick in economic conditions and subsequent higher bids from contractors, played a role in delaying construction and ultimately led to scaled-down versions of the original plans, especially for the recreation center and park.

After multiple discussions and presentations late last year and early this year, Huntersville commissioners agreed to tap into various financial resources, including funds remaining from previous bond packages and various reserve funds, to bridge the gap between 2012 estimates and current bids in order to move forward with all three of the town’s prioritized projects.

 Recreation center

The new Huntersville Parks and Recreation Department (HPRD) facility, on Verhoeff Drive adjacent to Huntersville Athletic Park and across the street from Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics Center (HFFA), is designed to help meet a growing town need for indoor recreation space.

Construction on the $7 million, 24,000-square-foot facility began in February. HPRD Director Michael Jaycocks expects construction to be completed by December and for the center to begin hosting activities in early January.

The recreation center will include two high school-size basketball courts that can also be divided into four volleyball courts. Meeting rooms, a lounge area and flexible space are also included in the plans. HPRD is also adding full-time staff positions to oversee activities at the new facility.

Before 2012, estimates for the recreation center — initially proposed on a site closer to U.S. 21 — were in the $4.5 million range. Later proposals, including one calling for a larger, split-level building with more court space, met financial hurdles that triggered a series of blueprint adjustments, and rising financial projections led to additional delays in final approval. Eventually, a parking partnership arrangement with Central Piedmont Community College led to the development of the current plan. The new recreation facility — which has yet to be officially named — is located adjacent to CPCC’s campus. Also, plans for CPCC expansion include new buildings and a significant increase in the available parking spaces in the area, fulfilling a vital logistical need for the new center and HFFA.

 Station No. 4

The Huntersville Fire Department’s Station No. 4 has been a recognized town priority for nearly a decade to meet the service demands fueled by steady growth in the southwest quadrant of town.

The new, $4.2 million station, on a 10-acre site at 8826 McIlwaine Road across the street from the Cedarfield neighborhood, is an 11,800-square-foot facility that features two full-length vehicle bays, one half-sized bay and basic amenities required to operate as a full-time station. The property is also large enough to accommodate expansion of the station or placement of additional town service operations.

In the 2012 bond package, two fire stations (including Station 4) were identified as the anticipated highest-priority uses for $7.15 million in public facilities funding. At that time, each station was projected to cost about $3.5 million.

Personnel and equipment at the new station, targeted to be ready for use by Jan. 1, will provide response to fires and other emergencies as part of the HPD’s expanded role as a first responder unit stemming from the July 1 closing of the North Meck Rescue Squad.

“Fire Station 4 will reduce department response time to the southwest quadrant of the town,” Interim Town Manager Gerry Vincent said earlier this year, adding that “the fire department will not only respond to all fire-related emergency calls, but for medical services and accident scenes.”

 Veterans Park

Huntersville’s tribute to all military veterans will feature a six-monument salute honoring each branch of U.S. military service — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine.

The centerpiece of Veterans Park at Main & Maxwell, facing Huntersville-Concord Road, will have individual monuments arced around a globe positioned above a reflecting pool. The park will also include a stage area, plaza, festival lawn and the railroad caboose that has become a downtown landmark.

The park, between Main and Maxwell streets one block east of the Gilead Road/N.C. 115 intersection, is scheduled for completion by late September or early October, with a grand opening celebration planned on Veterans Day, which will be one year to the day since groundbreaking ceremonies were held at the site.

Plans for the $2 million park — funded by a combination of municipal bonds, general fund dollars, HPRD reserve funds and community donations collected by local Rotary clubs and groups affiliated with American Legion Post 32 — originally included a new community meeting center that would also serve as the new home for the Huntersville Growers Market, but that part of the project was removed because of financial considerations. The center could be added at a future date.

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