By Noelle H. Lowery
During its March 17 meeting, the Marco Island City Council voted to untable its previous discussion about the language for the proposed referendum “to determine whether to renovate and expand the indoor community center at Mackle Park.” Council will take up the discussion at future meeting, possibly on April 7.
The motion — made by Councilor Joe Batte and seconded by Councilor Bob Brown — passed by a vote of 4-2. Council Vice Chairman Larry Sacher and Councilor Amadeo Petricca voted in dissent, and Councilor Chuck Kiester was not in attendance.
Councilors attempted to tackle the issue during the March 3 meeting, but lingering questions about pricing forced them to table the discussion until further information could be provided about the true costs of the long-debated community center project. The current plan for a turnkey, modular, precast concrete design concept provided by Royal Concrete Concepts is nearly one-year-old, and so is the $2.25 million price tag which expired in September 2013.
Further, multiple attempts to contact the Royal Concrete folks have proven difficult for Marco Island officials. That’s because Royal Concrete recently merged with Metromont Corp., a concrete company with manufacturing facilities in Greenville, SC; Altanta; Nashville, TN; Charlotte, NC; Richmond, VA; and Bartow, FL.
It is a game of beat the clock, after all. Councilors want to hold the referendum concurrently with the upcoming primary election on Aug. 26, but they are facing a June deadline to give the language for the referendum to Collier County Supervisor of Elections Jennifer Edwards.
Parks and Recreation Administrative and Facilities Manager Alex Galiana opened the door for the motion to untable the discussion during his department’s monthly report to City Council. No hard bid was available for reference, and city officials continue to have difficulties contacting Royal Concrete Concepts to get an updated quote. Even so, Galiana and City Manager Roger Hernstadt did preliminary pricing research for similar community center projects in Southwest Florida. Here is what they found:
• Collier County has approved $2.24 million for the new 11,558-square-foot Eagle Lakes Community Center in east Naples. That is $194 per square foot.
• Brian Howell with Naples-based Phoenix Associates of South Florida Inc., a construction and engineering firm, confirmed that a figure between $190 and $200 per square foot would be sufficient to build Marco Island’s current 16,000-square-foot community center with no gymnasium.
• According to W. Jeffrey Mudgett, a principal with Parker/Mudgett/Smith Architects Inc. in Fort Myers, the portions of the new 30,000-square-foot North Fort Myers Recreation Center — the areas that did not include an enclosed gymnasium — cost Lee County just $162 per square foot. The current Mackle Park design concept is based on the plans for this new rec center. Mudgett suggested Marco Island add 5 percent to account for increases in market costs along with a $5 per square foot premium because construction costs on Marco are higher than those in the middle of Lee County. The price: $175 per square foot, or $2.8 million for the 16,000-square-foot building with no contingencies, furnishing or accessories.
In the end, Galiana and Hernstadt told City Council the amount in the referendum should be $3.5 million, with the question being: “Shall the City expend up to $3.5 million to construct a New Community Center at Mackle Park?”
Galiana explained that the figure of $3.5 million was based on a “traditional” construction method and pricing of $200 per square foot plus a 9 percent contingency.
Councilors were skeptical. “This dollar number is 56 percent higher than what was given to us by Royal Concrete,” noted Councilor Larry Honig. “We led the citizens to believe that we were serious about reducing the price of this proposal.”
He added: “I don’t think enough work has been done to reconcile why we were given a bid for $2.5 million, and then a few months later, we cannot find any contractor willing to come in less than 56 percent more. If that is reality and that is where we are, I am willing to accept that. I just don’t think enough work has been done.”
Batte agreed, “I think we have the opportunity here for staff to do a little more work.”
Not long after Galiana finished his report, Greg West, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and board member Dr. Gerry Swiacki gave councilors an update on the marketing efforts for the Mackle Park plan. Both men applauded Council’s decision to untable the referendum discussion.
“Mackle Park adds to everyone’s quality of life on Marco Island,” Swiacki told City Council. “The city will build the best community center (it) can for the cost available.”