At its Nov. 13 meeting, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen voted 5-1 to approve a budget amendment to allocate more funds for the construction of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
The amendment includes reallocating$863,542 from the town's $2 million fund balance for future capital projects, which will allow the town to reach the lowest construction bid of $2,193,200.
It also establishes a $21,952 contingency fund to cover future unforeseen expenses.
The town received sealed bids on Oct. 15 for the construction of the park, although all bids exceeded the estimated cost prepared by Stewart Inc., the developers for the project.
Bethany Chaney, a Board of Aldermen member, said at the meeting the cost has been increasing quickly.
“We’re talking about how construction prices have gone up a percentage and a half for each of the last 12 months," Chaney said. "So we can’t afford not to build it, because I think the price is not going to go down.”
Alderman member Jacquelyn Gist said the price is skyrocketing for a reason.
“It’s basically because the cost of equipment and materials are going up, and that is being driven by two things,” she said.
She said she suspects it is due to the tariffs passed by the Trump administration and Hurricane Florence because a lot of the contractors are working in that area.
The Board also discussed the phasing of the construction of the park.
Randee Haven-O'Donnell, a member of the Board, suggested building the pump track first, which is a type of off-road terrain for cycling. She said she worries children are going to age out of that area of the park if construction is delayed.
"I don’t feel like a lot of the other parts are in such high demand, or that they have the kind of infrastructure that needs to have addressed immediate interest the way that pump track does,” she said.
David Andrews, Carrboro town manager, said there are challenges with building the pump track separately.
“We will have to rebid it, and it will cost you more than the number you see in here," he said. “Because when a contractor puts together a bid, they’ve already brought out what they call 'mobilization cost;' they've already brought out their heavy equipment. They're set up to do a $2 million contract.”
Sammy Slade, the only Board of Aldermen member who voted against the amendment, said he will only have higher confidence in going ahead with a big investment like this when the climate change plan is more settled.
“With many of the big ticket items that we're looking at that represent a lot of money for the town, I still have yet to see the cost for us implementing our climate change action plan," Slade said. "And I feel very uncomfortable voting on anything that costs a lot because, for me, that is the highest priority over everything.”
Gist said the budget amendment is a red light for future projects because in the future, it will come down to choosing between raising taxes and implementing a specific project.
The project has come a long way. In 1999, the town began implementing its 1994 master plan for the park by purchasing 10.16 acres of land on Hillsborough Road. In the spring of 2000, a park planning committee was named and the park designer, Site Solutions, was commissioned.Stewart Inc., the developers, came on board in 2016.
Jennifer Wagner, planning and design project manager from Stewart Inc., said construction will begin very soon and is expected to last 12 to 14 months.
"I expect that it will go pretty smoothly," she said. "It’s a fairly simple project, a light touch on the land. We will be upgrading the parking lot, adding the pump track and walking trails, so I think it will be a really wonderful park for the community."
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