Asheville Daily Planet
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Tuesday, 02 April 2019 22:41

Move soccer complex out of floodplain to avoid $1M bills

So it is good and bad news that East Asheville’s popular-but flood-prone John B. Lewis Soccer Complex, which has been closed since major flooding last May, is set to get a $1.1 million cleanup soon, as was reported widely on March 8.

The good news, of course, is that about 7,500 local children and adult players, along with thousands of out-of-town soccer enthusiasts who come to JBL — one of the region’s most popular sports facilities — for tournaments, will be able to resume use of the facility. Well, that is, if there is no more major flooding in the meantime.

As WLOS New 13 reported, “the city and the Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association have a contract with an astro-turf company” costing more than $1 million. (About $1.1 million is the repair price, to be more precise, as reported by the Citizen Times, which also noted that the repair company actually IS AstroTurf.

The city taxpayers will cover $875,000 of that, with the remaining $200,000 coming from the nonprofit Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association, which also runs the adult leagues.

Sandra Travis, Asheville parks and recreation operations manager, saud (as reported by WLOS, “What will happen in the cleanup is that they will remove all the silt and sand and the debris that is currently on the turf. And once they get down to the turf, they’ll be able to have a better idea as far as any damage that might be lurking underneath. And then we’ll go from there.”

That may be all well and good to the extent that it provides a temporary solution to a problem, but the bad news is that the city made a horrendous decision originally to locate the soccer fields in a floodplain, and then facing bills to repair the damage to the Astro-Turf costing around $1 million. With major flooding from the adjoining Swannanoa River happening ever more frequently, there seems to be no end to a treadmill of floods followed by humongous cleanup and repair bills.

If the current Plan A (to keep repairing the complex, which strikes us as a sure-fire disaster) is deemed no longer feasible, what is Plan B, we wonder?

From what we can gather, and as WLOS reported, it’s merely this: “City officials are also working with the youth soccer association on a long-term agreement that would set aside money to pay for maintenance and repairs at the complex.”

And as the Citizen Times stated, “The complex was built to withstand flooding from the nearby Swannanoa River... But a May 30 inundation brought a record 10 feet of water, depositing a thick layer of silt on the East Asheville facility. City officials said cleanup was delayed by three smaller floods, a contractor shortage and missteps in a federal aid application. That kept JBL shuttered for nine months and sent soccer leagues scrambling for other places to play.”

The contract gives AstroTurf 10 days to get on site, then 80 days to do the job, Travis told reporters. “If it exceeds 80 days, there’s a $500 penalty per calendar day. The 80 days can be extended due to weather issues if mutually agreed upon,” she said.

The Plan B to transfer more of the responsibility for cleanup costs to the youth soccer association is a step in the right direction.

But we think an even wiser step would be for the city to cut its losses and find a new location for the soccer complex that is not in a floodplain and make some other use of the property — or, perhaps better yet, sell it.




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