Asheville council debates funding sources for Memorial Stadium track

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ASHEVILLE — After the historically black East End neighborhood scored a victory last month by securing a long-awaited runway for its residents, city council and staff are now debating sources of funding — working to secure all 4, $4 million without diverting other capital projects.

During its April 12 budget working session, City Council heard a presentation from Director of Capital Projects, Jade Dundas, who presented a menu of proposed funding sources for the track and other stadium improvements. , including a potential $2.5 million federal COVID-19 allocation from the city. relief dollars.

City staff said there aren’t many other sources to turn to, what City Manager Debra Campbell called a “one-time funding opportunity for us,” the only option that won’t require not moving another capital project.

Built in 1925, the city-owned Memorial Stadium has spent much of its last three decades in disrepair, and community calls for the track have intensified in recent months – a neighborhood demanding what had given it already been promised, according to community leaders like Renee White.

Renee White, president of the East End/Valley Street Neighborhood Association, addresses the Asheville City Council during a March 22 meeting.

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“This project… should have been finished years ago,” said board member Sandra Kilgore. “So if you take that into consideration, and where we are now, I think the sooner we fund it and get it done, the better for everyone involved.”

The $17.9 million COVID-19 relief money, also known as the American Rescue Plan Act fund, is about to be allocated – with more than 70 proposals from organizations, from organizations to non-profit and municipal services were scored and ranked after submitting proposals to the city.

Councilor Sandra Kilgore speaks during an open space standards working session before a formal city council on March 8, 2022.

City Council is expected to discuss the allocation of ARPA funds further at a business meeting on April 25.

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The track was not submitted as a potential project via the formal RFP processbut was touted as a benefactor of the funds as the city struggled to address growing frustrations in the East End/Valley Street neighborhood.

March 22, The Asheville City Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a multimillion-dollar project that would include a six-lane competition track at Memorial Stadium, as well as replacing existing restrooms and bleachers, a paved walking path, and improvements to the playing field, among other amenities.

A new turf was recently added to Asheville Memorial Stadium.

The source of funding remained a lingering unknown.

In the proposal delivered to City Council on April 12, Dundas said that in addition to the $2.5 million in ARPA funds, $944,000 would come from the remaining bond funds for the Memorial Stadium project; $750,000 from the contingency of the RIC for the year; and $148,345 in unspent transit service fleet replacement.

Dundas said the next steps would be to present a design contract at the April 26 city council meeting to get approval to move forward. A budget amendment would be required to reallocate the $2.5 million in ARPA funds.

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Once the design of the project is complete, he hopes to have the project tendered by next summer and the construction to move forward soon after.

While all board members expressed support for the project, some questioned the use of ARPA funding.

Asheville City Soccer Club's game against Georgia Revolution ended on June 28, 2019 at Memorial Stadium.

Campbell pointed out that the project was not fast-tracked, that it was “redesigned” and that the broader scope required staff to find more funding to meet the higher cost of the project.

“And the problem is, where does the funding come from?” she says. The ARPA funding promised “minimal impacts” on existing projects.

Council member Kim Roney said using these funds always means something “wouldn’t be done”.

Namely, it competes with proposed ARPA projects currently vying for funding, ranging from increased capacity at the Buncombe County Domestic Violence Shelter, Transitional and Affordable Housing Units, and various other projects.

Asheville City Soccer Club's game against Georgia Revolution ended on June 28, 2019 at Memorial Stadium.

Roney asked the board to hear other staff funding options to compare to the existing proposal.

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Council member Antanette Mosley, from the East End and a strong supporter of the track, said she questions that hesitation.

“I wonder what proposed ideas do board members find more important than the health and well-being of a community that has waited over 30 years for this opportunity?” she asked.

“What apps do we think are more worthy than the request for a historically black neighborhood? Portaloos?”

Mayor Esther Manheimer said city council could still revisit the funding conversation at its April 26 budget work session or discuss options further with staff.

Ultimately, she said the award decision will be made when the board votes on the annual budget in its entirety.

Sarah Honosky is the city government reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Current advice? Email [email protected] or message on Twitter @slhonosky.

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