Savings found; Ahoskie Park project proceeds

Published 9:38 am Thursday, November 5, 2009

AHOSKIE – Plans to expand the Ahoskie Creek Recreational Complex (ACRC) will proceed as planned.

On Tuesday, members of the Ahoskie Town Council gave their unanimous approval to a $1.6 million project at ACRC, but only after the prospective contractor was able to trim over $300,000 from the construction price.

Now, the only thing separating the start-up of the much-anticipated work is for the North Carolina Local Government Commission (LGC) to approve the park’s revised plans.

At their Oct. 22 meeting (a continuation of an Oct. 13 gathering), council members were informed that the project was nearly $500,000 over budget without the first shovel of dirt yet being turned.

The project was launched 17 months ago after Ahoskie received a $500,000 PARTF (Parks and Recreation Trust Fund) grant and then borrowed $1.1 million to start phase two of the park.

Bids were not opened until early last month where Heaton Construction of Roanoke Rapids entered the low proposal at $1.69 million. Adding in the contingency fund, engineering design, permits and grant administration fees took the total cost to $2,065,310.50.

That news stirred a debate among Council members, during the Oct. 22 meeting, on how to proceed or not to proceed with the project. They opted to wait until Tuesday’s (Nov. 3) meeting to reach a decision after hearing if Heaton Construction had discovered any cost-saving measures in their value engineering process.

“They (Heaton) were able to identify several cost reduction measures,” said Dan Boone of the Wooten Company, the Town of Ahoskie’s engineering firm.

Boone said those savings will come in the form of reducing the elevation of all ball fields by one foot; eliminating a small parking lot; removing one beach volleyball court; and providing for a stick-built concession stand/restroom facility instead of a more costly pre-fab model.

Those savings totaled $307,500.

Additionally, Boone said the town could increase those savings by reducing some of the multiple items in the project. Those included two picnic shelters (instead of the five shown on the original plans) and one playground instead of three. Combined with removing a second concession stand from the plans could result in savings of over $500,000.

Boone had to first clear those revised plans with PARTF.

“They said as long as the overall description of the project is maintained, then they’re okay with it,” Boone stated. “In other words, if a picnic shelter is required through the PARTF grant application, then have one, not five.”

“We will maintain the overall aspect of the project,” Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond said. “We’re just removing the excess so we can get the price of the project back down to where we originally planned.”

Councilman Malcolm Copeland, who expressed his concern at the Oct. 22 meeting in regards to the cost overruns, said Tuesday that he felt more at ease with this latest proposal.

“By finding future funding, we can go back at a later date and add some of these things we had to trim,” Copeland said.

Boone added that the contractor had agreed to hold his bid price through February while the town awaits final approval from the LGC.

“The sooner you let the contractor start, the better the chance the work will be completed by next fall,” Boone noted.

Councilman Ronald Gatling offered two motions: to award the contract to Heaton Construction, contingent on LGC approval; and for the mayor to sign all documents required by the LGC. Councilman O.S. “Buck” Suiter Jr. offered a second and the motions passed by a 4-0 vote (Maurice Vann was absent from Tuesday’s meeting).

Prior to the discussion, Ahoskie Recreation Director Dennis Everett made a plea for Council to approve the project.

“My two-cents worth on this is that (with this complex; complete with three baseball/softball diamonds) we’ll be able to host tournaments rather than having our Ahoskie Recreation teams having to travel to other towns every year,” Everett said.

He continued, “We’ll be able to host regional tournaments for the Tar Heel (youth leagues) in different age groups and the revenue we’ll receive from Tar Heel plus that from operating concessions will be amazing.”

When asked what amount of concession revenue, Everett said a weekend event had the potential to generate $3,000-$4,000 while a week-long regional tournament could bring in $7,000-$10,000.

“And that’s not counting the adult softball tournaments we could host here every year,” Everett noted.

Additionally, the multi-purpose field at ACRC is increasing in popularity among the local youth soccer program, according to Everett.

“That program is growing,” Everett said. “Plus we’ll be able to use that same field for Bobcat (midget league) football. It could be used to host football tournaments.”