07/20/08 — Rec Center costs higher today than yesterday

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Rec Center costs higher today than yesterday

By Kenneth Fine and Anessa Myers
Published in News on July 20, 2008 1:25 PM

More than two years after members of Goldsboro's Recreation Center Committee recommended cutbacks on spending for the then-estimated $12 million Community Recreation Center, the price tag is no lower.

In fact, the proposed facility is more expensive.

Current plans call for a $12.3 million facility, an estimate some $300,000 higher than when, at an April 12, 2006, meeting, Mayor Al King called the notion of spending $12 million for a recreation center "ridiculous."

"We are pricing ourselves to death here," he said at the time.

And just more than a week earlier, City Councilman and Recreation Center Committee chairman Chuck Allen said that $12 million was a figure he called "the maximum."

"We know we can do this project without spending a penny more than $12 million," he said on April 4, 2006. "But we could do it for much less."

That month, many City Council members got their first look at plans to construct the center, and unanimously approved spending $150,000 to begin work on the first phase of the project's schematic design.

At that point, the building was 58,000 square feet, equipped with an indoor track, pool, gymnasium, a fitness center and dressing rooms.

Then, less than a year later, the committee downsized the center -- the 2007 plan called for a 52,000-square-foot facility.

But the price wasn't the only part of the planned building that would later increase.

Square footage was also on the rise.

At a January 2007 committee meeting, members met with architectural firm Pearce, Brinkley, Cease and Lee and started adding more items to the design.

"I don't think that's enough bleacher space," Allen said then, looking at the drawing of the gymnasium.

Other ideas were mentioned also -- inclusion of a room for free weights, using technology other than chlorine to keep the pool clean and more.

Architect Irvin Pearce said he would take the suggestions back to Raleigh, and the drawing board, but was quick to note that any major additions could raise the price tag on a project already estimated to run $10 million.

"We wanted to bring in a building that fits your budget," he said at the meeting. "Ten million -- we're trying to focus in on that. We're going to have to balance beauty and cost."

By July, the facility had grown to 55,000 square feet.

And the price tag was increasing, too.

Architect Jeffrey Lee warned that making too many changes to the plan during the project design phase would add to the already projected $10 million cost.

"If this is not what you want, we need to go back and look at other things," he said then. "The question becomes, every time you do that, it costs money. Even changing the brick color costs money."

In December, the building grew again, as committee members agreed to increase the square footage by 6,000 to add three classrooms, a playroom and four multi-purpose rooms for scheduled exercise activities like yoga into the designs.

Today, the building is a projected 60,365 square feet.

Officials say that completed drawings should be done by the end of the month, and construction of the facility would begin by September.

City Councilman and committee member Jackie Warrick said Thursday he is not ready to talk about specific ways to lower the cost of the facility -- that he was "thrown off base" when he heard that fellow council member, the Rev. Charles Williams, suggested a smaller scale version of the facility might be possible.

Repeated calls to Allen for his views on Williams' comments as well as his thoughts on the scale of the project were unanswered at press time.

Williams acknowledged that some of the increased price tag for the project could be attributed to the recent increases in construction costs.

"The price of materials has gone up. That is why you are hearing that $12 million figure," Williams said last week. "But hey, we could go ahead and spend say $6 million, go ahead and build with that -- cut back on things and add later."

Warrick said he is open to discussing the matter and added that there is reason to be careful with residents' money in the less-than-stellar economy.

"If he can come up with something cheaper and still fulfill what we are trying to fulfill, I'm all for it," he said. "I know people are hurting right now. I'm open to talk about anything that could save taxpayer dollars."

But until he sees "an actual plan", he said he would not comment further.

City Manager Joe Huffman said until he is directed otherwise by members of the council, he and his staff would move forward with the plan he has.

Currently, it calls for the facility to be built on the northwest corner of South Center and West Spruce streets, one that would cost an estimated $7 million in construction costs alone or $191.147 per square foot.

The most recent plans, which represent 100 percent of construction documents, include a $712,000 swimming pool, a playroom where parents can drop their children off when they exercise, meeting space and a video game influenced exercise area.

Not included in those plans is the cost for the workout equipment, which the committee expects to run around $1 million.