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Three sites in mix for rec center
Commission divided over facility in south Forsyth
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Forsyth County News

A bond-funded recreation center will be built in south Forsyth, county commissioners say, though they can't agree on where.

Commissioners butted heads Tuesday while trying to decide whether to give an architect the go-ahead to draw up plans for the proposed facility without a home.

In the end, commissioners left it to the architect to recommend one of three locations for the building, which could include an indoor track, two gym floors, classrooms, office area and a fitness and weight room.

According to officials, the board is looking at three sites for the center in south Forsyth:

* What is known as the Buice property, 43 acres of Nichols Road the county bought as part of a voter-approved green space bond.

* A church building and surrounding 11 acres off Sharon Road the county agreed to buy last week with 1-cent sales tax funds.

* Fowler Park, a large recreational project also funded by the green space bond, at Hwy. 9 and Castleberry Road.

It was not clear at the work session which site the individual commissioners favored.

Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse was at first reluctant, but voted to move forward.

"It's kind of hard to sit down and say you're going to do a design, but you don't know where you're going to put it," he said. " ... There are five of us and three of us have ideas on where it should go."

The original idea was to build the physical health facility at Fowler Park, a $19 million project that could get under way soon following a separate decision by the board to hire builders for that site.

Building the proposed 46,000-square-foot recreation center at Fowler Park would cost less, according to Donna Kukarola, the county's purchasing director.

She said the work at Fowler would be "minimal, less than if it was at a new site."

Designs for the recreation center at Fowler would cost $318,900, while running about $363,300 elsewhere.

Kukarola said construction itself, which could cost $6.5 million at Fowler, could increase by as much as $400,000 at another site "because of the civil work and utilities and infrastructure that would have to be installed."

Commissioner Brian Tam saw the opportunity for savings in other areas, which he said could counter those added amounts.

"You could save in site development costs if you brought [the architect] in," Tam said. "Yes, there's cost changes because you're moving it. But if you move it, you may have site development costs that are less. We'll never know unless we approve this."

The board voted 4-1 to let Sutton Architectural Services take a look at the three proposed sites and make a recommendation as well as begin to draw up architectural documents. Commissioner Jim Harrell opposed the measure.

Commissioner Patrick Bell voiced frustration about the general holdup.

"This is sad, it's really sad," said Bell, who was upset at the board's initial vote of 3-2 to postpone the item.

The commission revisited and approved the measure later, following a phone call to the architect to make sure the firm would hold its price during an inspection period of the sites.

"To have free, expert advice and not take it, it's just ridiculous," Bell said.

Laughinghouse cautioned his new colleague.

"Patrick, when you've been here for six years, you can speak like that, but six weeks is a little early," he said.

Bell took office in January after winning election in the fall.