Hendersonville voters could vote this fall on a bond issue for Berkeley Park.
At a planning retreat Feb. 15 the Hendersonville City Council began talking about how they'll pay for Berkeley Park improvements that have a total price tag of $4.2 million. Council members talked about the possibility of borrowing $5 million through a voter-approved bond issue. Finance director Jim Rudisill told the council repayment would require a property tax increase of 2 cents per $100 valuation.
On Wednesday night the council authorized city attorney Sam Fritschner to contact bond counsels — law firms that specializes in guiding public bodies through a bond sale — and report on the process but it stopped short of giving a green light to a bond issue.
"My feelings are if we're going to start I would have to do phase 1," Councilman Jerry Smith, one of most vocal park advocates, said during the retreat. "Right now the road is inadequate. I think a playground with a road going in would be your quickest payback. That's phases 1 and 6. But the big question is not which phase but how to pay for any phase."
A "destination" playground and new drive would cost $681,000, the master plan said.
"If we were to do a tax rate increase we should say this is money that goes to Berkeley for however long it takes to build that out," Smith said.
Councilman Ron Stephens was skeptical about a bond issue's chance of success. Given new recreation facilities at the old Hendersonville Christian School property, Jackson Park improvements, a new Tuxedo park and potentially a new Flat Rock park, "I think it would be harder to sell this because people will say, How many parks do we need?" he said.
City Manager Lee Galloway said bond issues for parks are less certain than those that pay for public safety.
"When it comes to police and firefighters, people say is this is enough, do we need to give 'em more? But when it comes to recreation or some other use they get kind of squirrelly about it," he said. "Bond issues generally for recreation or libraries or schools don't have the broad-span support that police and fire generally have."
The planning retreat gave council members a preliminary look at departmental budget request for 2013-14 and later budget years.
The master plan includes walking trails, soccer fields, new rest rooms, a kids' mountain bike loop, picnic shelters, a memorial tree garden and other improvements. A landscape architect who drew the plans said the park could be developed in phases.
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