A “very rough” cost estimate for a new county recreation center done four years ago before the design concept was finalized turned out to be well off the mark, as the Moore County commissioners learned Tuesday.
The original agreement approved in March 2018 with the architectural firm hired to design the facility was based on an estimated construction cost of $3.7 million, Capital Projects Manager Rich Smith told the commissioners.
He said that after completing the design and then working with the contractor to reduce some of the costs, the actual construction budget is $5.5 million. Commissioners awarded the construction contract in July. That resulted in a $134,000 increase in the contract with the architectural firm, which commissioners voted unanimously to approve.
Board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Graham questioned why there was such a large increase in the construction costs over what was projected four years ago.
“That budget was based on a preliminary design that a local architect had done based on a number from a general contractor,” Smith responded. “It was well before this inflation and everything that has happened lately. But now we have finally designed a facility. … This is really the actual cost of what we are doing.”
Graham asked, “So it was a rough estimate?”
“It was a very rough estimate,” County Manager Wayne Vest injected. “We didn’t have any real concept of the type of structure. We knew we wanted two gyms and a multipurpose room. But as far as the all-brick construction … the design we ultimately ended up with is now much nicer and much more sustainable than what was put in that very rough estimate.”
Vest said later in a brief interview after the meeting that the commissioners asked that the county “not take short cuts” in the design.
“We could have built a much less expensive facility,” Vest said. “We wanted to put up a building that the county and Carthage would be proud of. We wanted it to look nice. We will be bring tournaments here and people from out of state.”
Commissioner Otis Ritter said during the meeting that this is “sort of normal for a project this large,” when an estimate is made before the final design is finished.
Vest said the county will likely face a similar situation in designing a new courthouse.
“The reason I wanted that brought out is that we chastised the schools for under-estimating theirs,” Graham said. “I want that understood.”
Ritter made the motion to approve the cost increase for the architectural contract, and Graham offered the second, and it passed 4-0. Commissioner Jerry Daeke was unable to attend the meeting.
Later, during the time for commissioner comments, Commissioner Louis Gregory expressed concern about the cost increase in a previously approved contract.
“I am concerned when this board approves a contract amount and later be requested to increase the amount initially approved,” Gregory said. “I’d like to see future major contracts include a statement ‘not to exceed amount.’”
Smith also told the board that construction is actually underway on the new center.
“We are moving dirt,” he said.
Smith said in an earlier interview with The Pilot that hopefully, the center will open by January or February 2021. The 22,000-square-foot facility will include two gymnasiums with full-size basketball courts, a conference room that can seat 100 people for classes, restrooms and a concession area.
The center is part of an overall reimagining of Hillcrest Park at the junction of N.C. 22 and U.S. 15-501. New parking, an additional baseball field and the splash pad that opened earlier this month are all part of the plan — and other outdoor facilities are possible as well.
The county opened the 7,000-square-foot splash pad July 10 to great fanfare with a large crowd of children and adults on hand. It costs $283,000 to build.
Funding from the county’s capital reserves, which the commissioners earmarked for the center in 2017, will cover about half of the cost. The county also had more than $800,000 from the sales of properties bequeathed to the county to support recreation in a special project fund.
In addition, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee has raised about $680,000 in private funding for the center.
Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or email@example.com.