Rec center feasibility study results

Published 10:31 am Friday, May 18, 2018

The Harlan Fiscal Court heard the results of a feasibility study concerning the possibility of a wellness/recreation center during a meeting on Tuesday.

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley brought the topic to the attention of the court.

“This is something we’ve talked about for several years,” Mosley said. “This study was commissioned about a year ago. We worked with Brandstetter Carroll…to determine a) what do we need based on our health data, b) where did this need to be located, c) what would it cost to build it and d) how much would it cost to maintain.”

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Mosley pointed out some neighboring counties went into similar projects without such a study and the projects brought some negative results.

Mosley called on Eric Chambers from Brandstetter and Carroll, the firm the county contracted to complete the study, to present the findings to the court.

The study addresses two separate properties and designs for a facility, with one plan focusing on a piece of state-owned property and another privately owned property. Total construction costs for the state property are estimated at $5,391,834, while constructing the facility on the private lot would cost an estimated $5,842,436.

The study also looked into other factors, such as how much it would cost to staff and operate the facility once constructed.

The study estimates the total expenses for the facility would come in at approximately $980,752 per year. This would be offset by income derived from areas including membership fees, daily usage fees and room and facility rental income. Estimated income is estimated at $653,369 per year, leaving a total cost to the county of approximately $327,383 per year to operate and staff a facility.

According to the study, a facility would possibly include game courts, meeting/party rooms, a climbing wall, batting cages, a golf simulator, a hunting simulator and coin-operated arcade games.

“You all did a very thorough job,” Mosley said following the presentation.

Members of the health care community in attendance expressed their approval of such a facility. Mosley pointed out a wellness/recreation center could also have a positive impact on the tourism industry in Harlan County.

“It’s a lot to digest from a financial perspective,” Mosley said. “There are obviously things that can be tweaked. In the initial dialogue a year ago, I liked the arcade aspect of it, but now we have a private business open in downtown Harlan, it’s an arcade. So, that’s probably something I would want to take out of it just because I don’t think we should be competing with private business.”

Magistrate David Kennedy mentioned recreational centers in Letcher and Knott counties.

“It’s been in place eight or nine years,” Kennedy said. “Their recreation center costs them over $600,000 a year. That’s a county similar to Harlan County…I would like to know has it helped Letcher County?”

Kennedy added a Knott County facility costs approximately $60,000 per month to operate.

“That’s counting…bond payments included in that,” Mosley said. “That’s the whole purpose of this study, to determine what the cost would be not only to build, but also to operate. These other counties went into it blindly with no data to determine what they should do to operate a facility.”

Mosley said other counties did not put up any money up front to construct the facilities.

“They took on debt, which is something I’m not willing to do,” Mosley said. “Now they don’t have the coal severance revenue to pay for it. So, when you say $60,000 a month, you’re encompassing that debt service into that number.”

After more discussion, Mosley pointed out a decision would not be made immediately.

“This is not a decision for today,” Mosley said. “This is something we need to digest.”