At the April 19 city council meeting, two major capital projects totaling close to about $23 million in cost took another step forward. The $23 million price tag reflects the anticipated 90% cost numbers for both of the two projects with final numbers yet to come.
The first of the two projects would be the much-awaited build-out of the Veterans Community Park Project, which is located off Park Avenue in the Downtown District of the island. The land for that park was initially known as the Glonn Property and was purchased in 1999 shortly after the city was formed. With public pressure growing after 10 years since its initial purchase of the property, the city council would move ahead to create a Master Plan for its use. That was accomplished through a collaborative effort by city staff, a council-appointed committee of residents, as well as the assistance of Kimley-Horn and Associates from Sarasota, Florida. That resulted in the Official Master Plan for Veterans Community Park.
Unfortunately, the council put any discussions regarding development on hold for the next decade due to the financial impact of the 2008 Recession and the downturn in the economy.
In 2019, a second look at that initial conceptual plan was again undertaken. At the time, some would question the reasoning for spending another $100,000 for the second look, citing the fact that it would essentially be a questionable waste of time and valuable resources. However, a contract would once again be awarded to Kimley-Horn, who worked with city staff and kept the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee informed and held public meetings to get additional community input, resulting in few changes to the initial plans from a decade ago.
The city did, however, deviate from its normal “design-build” method of delivering a project such as this. It would adopt a Construction Manager At Risk (CMAR) versus its normal process of Design, Bid and Build Process. The CMAR process involves the Construction Manager guaranteeing that the project does not exceed the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP).
When the decision was made to proceed in this manner on both the Veterans Community Park Project and the new Fire Station 50 Project, former Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz voiced strong concerns regarding the process. He continued to voice his concerns regarding CMAR management of both projects at the April 19 meeting—those concerns would once again be overridden by his colleagues, including the new Council Chairman, Jared Grifoni.
The city had chosen Manhattan Construction to act as the CMAR for both of the construction projects discussed at the April 19 meeting earlier last year. Manhattan Construction Group is a privately-held construction firm. The company works throughout the U.S., South America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
During the discussion period, much focus was placed upon the issues regarding both projects and the potential impact on final costings due to the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Rising costs, availability of materials and potential delays were heavily discussed.
Members of the Manhattan team were only available by video conferencing due to their staffs’ exposure to an infected COVID patient.
The Veterans Community Park Project came in at the $10.4 million number and the Fire Station 50 at $12.5 million figure. Both of those reflect 90% of the anticipated final number. The final numbers will only be available once the CMAR finalizes their choice of all of their subs and the “not to exceed” numbers are finalized.
Council support for both the fire station and park project was strong, as well as from the few members of the public who were on hand. Both projects received approval on separate votes by council.