Officials debate playhouse parking

By Tom Joyce -

Recent patching of potholes at the Andy Griffith Playhouse parking lot, as evidenced by the dark pavement seen here, might not fully address problems there, officials say.

Tom Joyce | The News

While reality television has its “Storage Wars,” Mount Airy is engaged in parking lot wars, based on recent discussions that have become heated at times.

When being updated on efforts to provide more parking spaces for Reeves Community Center during a council meeting last week, an unexpected discussion broke out on the lot at the city-owned Andy Griffith Playhouse. It was implied that efforts to address needs at RCC had obscured those at the playhouse, including a rash of potholes and cracks in pavement.

Commissioner Shirley Brinkley said the playhouse lot was last paved 30 to 40 years ago.

“It’s been neglected too long,” Brinkley said. “I’m fighting for this parking lot to be improved.”

When council members were shown photographs of the potholes, Commissioner Jim Armbrister appeared to grow agitated while saying he didn’t believe pothole issues should come before the city board.

Mount Airy’s at-large commissioner seemed even more concerned that this reflected a lack of maintenance. Armbrister said it bothered him that as the board was proceeding with projects for new spaces at the community center, it is overlooking maintenance on facilities it already has.

“I see it as a waste of money,” he said.

City Public Works Director Jeff Boyles said at the meeting that he was unaware of problems at the playhouse parking lot.

There was some concern that patching or repaving might not be adequate to fully address the issues, with Mayor David Rowe pointing out that the improvements could require digging up everything that’s there now and completely rebuilding the lot.

“There’s five big potholes, and each of them are huge.”

Filling these with asphalt, Rowe continued, might be only a stop-gap measure if more intense work is needed for the long term rather than just an “overlay.”

Brinkley said the job needs to be “done right,” rather than putting in materials that possibly will be removed later. She cited a need for the lot to withstand the heavy-duty use it receives from bus traffic at the playhouse for Surry Arts Council programs there.

“We’ve had as many as eight buses in the parking lot at one time,” said Tanya Jones, the executive director of the arts organization.

The mayor offered to have a paving professional examine the lot for advice on what to do, and report the results to the board at its meeting next Thursday, after board members expressed a desire to move forward with improvements.

If a full-blown project is deemed as needed, City Manager Barbara Jones said the work would be coordinated with the playhouse schedule to limit disruptions of activities there.

This also could involve redesigning and realigning the lot to maximize its space and enhance traffic flow.

“So I think we’re looking at the whole package on it,” the city manager said and in the meantime, “we will certainly take care of the potholes.”

“That was done the next day,” Brinkley commented earlier this week regarding those initial repairs.

But Commissioner Armbrister wasn’t concerned with only the playhouse parking situation.

He also addressed the poor condition of a municipal lot on North Main Street beside Old North State Winery which the commissioners discussed months ago.

“Why are we still looking at potholes that have been there for a length of time?” asked Armbrister, who said the conditions there are hard on vehicles.

RCC parking projects

Before voting unanimously to proceed with renovation and construction work on three lots at the community center, the commissioners were told that some improvements already have occurred — with a major project in store for a lot on Cherry Street beside the center.

A total of about 50 new spaces will result.

City Engineer Mitch Williams told the commissioners that the largest project involved will add 40 spaces to the Cherry Street lot.

However, the actual work is not expected to occur until next year due to reasons of timing.

Williams advised that a picture in an old newspaper edition came to light which showed debris being used as filler when the lot was built in the 1970s. He said debris subsequently was found, though not to the scale first suspected, and suggestions were obtained for mitigating that structural issue.

“That delayed us a couple of months,” the engineer said.

The timetable for the Cherry Street lot — which also will address a drainage problem that sometimes causes the lower level of RCC to be flooded — calls for construction to occur from March to September of 2017.

Putting off the work until then will coordinate with heavily attended basketball tournaments held at the center and also the schedules of asphalt plants.

“We’ve got a design — we’re ready to go — we’re just holding off on the bidding,” Williams added.

Meanwhile, nine spaces have been added to the center’s tunnel lot at the corner of North Renfro and East Pine streets.

Williams said a smaller lot at the corner of South Renfro and East Pine streets will be paved soon. Work on that lot will be completed by the Autumn Leaves Festival in October “at the latest.”

About $30,000 has been spent on RCC parking improvements so far, with a total projected cost not available.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Recent patching of potholes at the Andy Griffith Playhouse parking lot, as evidenced by the dark pavement seen here, might not fully address problems there, officials say. patching of potholes at the Andy Griffith Playhouse parking lot, as evidenced by the dark pavement seen here, might not fully address problems there, officials say. Tom Joyce | The News

By Tom Joyce

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