WILMINGTON — City council received an update at its Monday agenda briefing about two major community projects identified in the 2016 parks bond. With construction and materials costs on the rise and inflation at 8.52%, millions of more dollars are required for completion.
In 2016, city residents voted to approve a $38-million bond to fund over a dozen parks projects in the community. To repay the bond, the city increased taxes by 2.1 cents per $100 valuation, which became effective July 1, 2017.
Since that time, about half of the projects have been completed, some were put on hold due to supply chain issues, and at least three are coming down the pipeline.
Included in the list of capital improvements was an expansion of the MLK Center, a community center offering afterschool and kids’ programs, as well as the nCino sports complex to create multipurpose fields at 205 Sutton Steam Plant Road.
Both projects have increased costs, requiring roughly $8 million more from city funds in order to cross the finish line — now delayed by up to two years.
City staff will also present council a revision to the capital improvement program and redistribution of funding at a future meeting.
In November 2020, city staff presented two building options to council for the expansion of the community center: a load-bearing masonry structure or pre-engineered metal facility. Council preferred the metal one from an aesthetic standpoint, as well as its lower estimated cost by roughly half-a-million dollars.
Sawyer Sherwood and Associates Architecture raised design concerns to the city about the proposed plan; a stop-work order was issued in August 2021. The city then spent more than $25,000 debunking the claims with a third-party firm and is now re-engaging the original contractor.
The timeline for the parks bond pinned the MLK Center work as starting within three to five years after July 2017. As of early 2021, the city was targeting finalized designs of the MLK Center by October 2021.
City engineer and project manager Matt Hart’s Monday updates indicate, due to the past year’s hiccups, the design documents are now 30% completed. He anticipates it will be the beginning of 2023 before 100% of construction documents are ready to be bid out and early 2024 before construction is complete.
The expansion of the current building, located at 401 S. 8th St., adds 11,275 square feet to the current MLK Center for additional restrooms and offices, a lobby, new family restroom, storage and high-school-sized gymnasium.
Also included will be a community kitchen, a joint initiative between the city, Community Enrichment Initiatives and the U.S. Green Building Council. CEI chipped in funds, and the city allocated $500,000 in ARPA funds to help offset the cost of the kitchen.
At this time, total cost of the project is estimated to be $6.6 million, with only $4 million allocated in the city budget.
Hart explained HVAC, electrical work and gym equipment prices all rose by 100%; fire protection jumped 170%; site work increased 120%; and openings, doors and frames are 40% higher than last year.
He added there is enough “contingency” built into the proposed cost estimates at this time, he doesn’t anticipate another spike in funding needs.
Council member Charlie Rivenbark asked how the new cost overruns would impact other projects scheduled for the future, to which city manager Tony Caudle replied it shouldn’t.
“My understanding of this particular project is the cap balances will be used from other places, and there will be no need to delay other capital items,” he told council Monday. “Barring some unforeseen circumstances, we can stay to that timeline. This project, and Maides Park Gym, have been top priorities.”
nCino Sports Complex
In July 2019, the Wilmington Hammerheads Youth Football Club donated 64 acres of land to be used for the creation of a new sports complex, which currently houses seven fields. The city approved a $10-million investment to redevelop the property to include 12 total fields — five with athletic lighting for night games and practice, four natural turf, one synthetic — and support structures.
Last May, local digital banking company nCino offered $1.3 million to the cause, obligating the city to build a synthetic turf field sponsored by the company. nCino will pay the city $125,000 over a 10-year period for the title sponsorship and pitch in an additional $50,000 to offset the cost of signage. For at least 17 years, the park will be named nCino Sports Park.
New cost estimates provided by Hart on Monday show a $5.3-million gap in financing on the project that is now coming in at nearly $17 million.
Bids opened for the construction at the end of June, and the contract was awarded to T.A. Loving, with a base bid of $12.4 million. That includes $5.5 million in site work, for grading, infrastructure, irrigation and landscaping. The other $6.9 million covers expenses for a new fully lit synthetic field, one partially lit renovated field, four new irrigated natural turf fields, athletic lighting for three existing fields, 17 temporary mobile lights, a 2,000-square-foot restroom building along with widening the turn lane at U.S. Highway 421 and 650 linear feet of netting.
The Hammerheads chipped in $52,700 in February to cover the foundation for the athletic lighting. Upon completion, the team will manage the park.
Another approximate $2 million is on the table in bid alternatives to include site prep work for a playground, improved landscaping and additional infrastructure needs; however, the city does not have to move forward with those items at this time.
Construction is set to begin in October.
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