DOBSON —Town officials say the general consensus is that the town will borrow at least part of the money to construct the $1 million Dobson Square Park, and shovels could be in the ground in just weeks.
While he concedes the town’s board of commissioners will have to act on the move to take on the additional debt, Town Manager Josh Smith says he believes at least part of the remaining $500,000 will come through a loan.
“The board will more than likely act on it in July,” he said.
Smith said that if the town does borrow money, it will have to go before the state’s Local Government Commission for approval, but he said the commission, which oversees municipal loans.
“While we will have to go before the commission to borrow the money, we have been given approval by the commission to move forward with the project in the interim,” Smith said. “If we decide to go that way, we can always revisit the financing later and submit an application to the commission for debt funding, but as it stands now we’re going to proceed and move forward with using some of our fund balance to fund the project.”
The plan, Smith said, is to submit a proposal to the Local Government Commission to be on their calendar for their August meeting.
Smith said he plans on taking park architect Jeff Johnson of Burlington-based firm Alley, Williams, Carmen & King, and a couple of the town’s commissioners to the meeting.
“We will go over our finances, explain the purpose of the project and how we’re planning to repay the loan payments,” he said. “It’s a pretty straight-forward process that’s in place to make sure we’re able to cover the payments we incur as a result of this debt.”
The town manager said the town has around $1 million in unrestricted funds in the bank.
“As of now, the general consensus is the town will kick in a couple of hundred thousand dollars, which will leave us to finance up to about a half million dollars,” he said.
The 2.2-acre park is planned for the intersection of South Crutchfield and West Atkins streets. It is expected to house two picnic shelters, one of which will double as the site of the town’s farmer’s market, an interactive fountain, splash pad, playground and walking trails.
Dobson has secured a grant worth $498,000 from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, which is expected to cover about half the construction costs for the park.
Smith said town officials “definitely want to use some of our money that’s in the bank.”
“The exact amount hasn’t been determined yet, but the general feeling is for us to kick in some money,” he said.
With interest rates at their current level, Smith said the safe course of action is to use part of the town’s savings and finance the rest.
“Interest rates are so low right now that it’s a good idea to borrow money,” he said. “It’s cheap and we can hold onto a part of our savings in the event an emergency crops up and we have to spend money we hadn’t planned on spending.”
If everything goes as planned, the town could see construction begin on the park before the end of the month, Smith added.
“We’re drawing up paperwork for the contractor, and they need to get a couple of permits, but once that’s done they can hit the ground running,” he said. “I know they’re ready to go and we’re ready for them to get going.”
Mount Airy-based contractor Smithcon Construction was awarded the contract to build the park late last month with a bid of $858,400.
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.