During a close vote decided by the mayor, Pineville Town Council members decided to proceed with an agreement with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation to bring T-ball fields back to town.
Council members also are willing to cover the entire cost if necessary, although they hope the county chips in, officials said during their April 8 meeting.
The decision to enter negotiations with the county on field construction came after another lengthy council discussion on how much the town should get involved with reconstruction of the fields.
After more than 45 minutes, Councilwomen Deborah Fowler and Melissa Rogers Davis voted against the field-construction agreement, and Councilmen David Phillips and Les Gladden voted for it.
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“The important thing I look at is giving children something to do,” said Mayor Jack Edwards. “I truly believe it’s the town’s responsibility to provide those responsibilities, and I vote yes.”
The impetus for the discussion came after members of the Pineville Community Athletic Association requested the town provide financial help to rebuild the fields torn down during construction of the new Pineville Elementary School.
During the last month, town staff has met with representatives from Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation to create a field construction agreement and see how much the county would be willing to pay.
Although an original cost estimate for an initial phase of the fields was about $1.1 million, more recent estimates put the cost around $460,000, said Town Administrator Haynes Brigman. The second phase, which would include concession and bathrooms, would be voted on later.
Brigman told council members that if they wanted help from the county, they needed to show serious financial commitment. “They want to see we have some skin in the game,” said Brigman.
He said it would be significantly less expensive than if the town tried to pay for construction alone, adding that by committing to building the fields, council members would be filling a need and helping local families.
Brigman said that as of the 2010 Census, Pineville’s population included 508 children younger 5 and 410 between age 5 and 9.
Brigman said drawbacks included the fact that the land still would be owned by the county and would be leased to the town, though it would be for a long lease, such as 40-50 years.
Ultimately, Davis said, she had reservations about voting on an agreement with the county when staff weren’t sure how much it would cost the town.
“We’re failing constituents without knowing the final price tag. … We’re voting on something blindly,” said Davis.
Phillips said council members needed to think just as much about Pineville’s children as they were about tax-paying residents.
“If we don’t move into this, we’re failing our kids,” said Phillips. “It builds character, it builds responsibility, it teaches them right from wrong. If we don’t do it, (Police Chief Rob Merchant) will be seeing them down the road.”
In a related item April 8, Town Council members unanimously finalized the bylaws of the council’s partnership with the Pineville Community Athletic Association, which would be the main user of the fields built next to Pineville Elementary School.
The council agreed to pay $10,000 annually to the athletic association in exchange for the association assuming responsibility for maintaining the property.
To ensure the town keeps a voice in the association, the president of the Pineville Community Athletic Association board of directors will be Pineville’s athletic coordinator.
At least two other members of the board of 15 would also be Pineville residents.