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OPINION: MEMORIAL CITY HALL IS BEHIND SCHEDULE AND THERE WILL BE A COST OVERRUN

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By Ron Munden – October 29, 2018


Its almost official. For years City Staff has painted a rosy picture of the status of the MCH renovation project and the current City Commissioners along with other commissioners have been eating it up like peach ice cream – never taking the time to ask any hard questions. The current City Commissioners have spent most of their time patting themselves on the back and telling people how great a job the City is doing managing the project. It’s been a good run for bowing and hand waving, but it looks like the chickens are about to come home to roost.

Last Thursday night Acting City Manager Jack Redman came very close to saying, “The MCH project is behind schedule and there is going to be a cost overrun.”

Commissioner Calhoun said something to the effect, ” If there is a cost overrun, who will pay for the cost over-run?”

Mr. Redmon said, “The City.” I assume he means the City’s general fund.

The current City Commissioners have already cut the street maintenance budget to give the city employees a big pay raise and include money in the 2019 budget for a bike trail and a splash pool. Where will the money come from to cover the MCH cost overrun? Will the street maintenance budget take another hit? Will water bills go up again?

How bad are the problems?

Schedule: When pressed Mr. Redmon said he could not give an estimate but based on his comments the building will not open in 2018 as advertised. Based on his description of the issues, my guess is the Spring of 2019.

Cost overrun: Mr. Redmon provided a financial report but there was no bottom-line number -- reading between the lines, this is where I think the City stands.

Current funding: The City has two certificates of obligation. One for $2.1 million and a second one for $2 million. As you might recall the City initially set the cost of the renovation at $2.1 million. In April 2017 City Manager Lisa Agnor set the total cost at $3.3 million and the City Commissioners patted themselves on the back for the great job they were doing.

So, the City had $4.1 million in certificates of obligation and $250,000 in general funds that have been committed to the project. Total funding is $4,350,000.

Mr. Redmon report says the remaining funding is: $830,700.98. The outstand cost balance for existing contracts is: $1,284,574.

Based on these number the current cost overrun is $453,874.

Commissioner Halliday asked if Mr. Redmon’s report included all known future expenditures. Mr. Redmon said, ”No.”

Mr. Redmon listed several things that are not included in the current cost estimate.

Some of these items are:

*The salaries of the Construction Supervisory Vance Walker and his assistant.

*Additional architecture fees.

*Additional fees for inmate labor paid to the county.

*Additional cost related to installation of an elevator/lift.

*And the big unknown – additional sprinkler systems cost related to the bankruptcy of the contractor doing that work.

Mr. Redmon gave no cost estimates for any of these items, but my guess is it would be in the $250,000 to $500,000 range.

The total cost overrun which will come from the general fund would be $703,874 to $973,874.

Any way you look at it the cost of the MCH is going to exceed $5 million. A lot of money to spend on a building that the City does not know how it will be used.

Thank God I am not a City Commissioner. If I was I would not be sleeping at night. However, my guess is that most of the current City Commissioners are sleeping just fine.


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