Tally on Sports Field Hits $3.3M

Building the proposed J.B. Chambers Recreation Park in East Wheeling will cost about $2.08 million, officials learned Tuesday, though it remains unclear when construction will proceed.

James White Construction of Weirton submitted the low bid for each of the two separate contracts included in the overall project, including $1.52 million for a lighted artificial turf field and $560,985 to replace the Elks Playground that was removed during demolition at the East Wheeling project site last year. With what already has been spent for the project, the contracts would bring the park’s total price tag to almost $3.3 million.

The total bid amount was less than the city’s engineering firm, Alpha Associates, had anticipated. But City Manager Robert Herron said there is no timetable for City Council to award the contracts, as the city continues to solicit private donations for the project.

“We now know what the numbers are. … We’re pleased with the numbers, and we’re going to do everything we can to award this contract,” said Herron.

Five general contractors attended a pre-bid conference, but only two companies ended up submitting proposals. Laurita Inc. of Morgantown turned in bids totaling slightly more than $2.5 million.

And while the overall bid amount came in lower than anticipated, the cost for the playground portion – bid separately due to the proposed use of federal and state funds – exceeded estimates by almost $140,000. The city has $400,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding and a $22,000 state grant available for that portion of the project, so officials will need to come up with an additional $138,985 to pay for the playground.

In order to do that, Herron will ask council to reprogram $100,000 in 2013-14 CDBG money originally allocated for building demolition, which combined with $40,000 from the Public Works Department budget should make up the difference.

Moving those funds, he assured, would not impact the number of structures the city would be able to clear from its list of 20 set to be demolished using CDBG funds, as the city has only been able to spend about $43,000 of the $200,000 council allocated for demolition from the 2012-13 CDBG budget.

It takes so long to obtain State Historic Preservation Office approval to use federal money to tear down a building, he said, that there’s no way the city could spend the rest of that money plus an additional $100,000 on demolition in the next year.

Even with a proposed solution to the shortfall for the playground project, the city still needs to raise an additional $200,000 to $300,000 to pay for the field, according to Mayor Andy McKenzie.

McKenzie declined to comment on whether his goal is to raise enough private contributions simply to fund construction, or whether that goal also includes reimbursing city coffers for the money already spent.

He did say, however, that fundraising will continue even after the field is open.

“We will continue to raise money to pay for the day-to-day operations (of the park) and to finish the project. … This is a long-term project to revitalize East Wheeling,” McKenzie said.

Contributions to the project from identified outside sources total about $1.37 million.

They include private donations of $750,000 from the J.B. Chambers Foundation and $50,000 each from the Roy and Dorothy Chambers Foundation and the Bordas & Bordas law firm, as well as $522,000 in grant funding for the playground, assuming council approves reallocating the demolition funds.

With city taxpayers already invested in the project to the tune of $1.2 million for property acquisition, demolition and engineering, that leaves about $710,000 in costs yet to be accounted for, representing money the city still needs to raise as well as contributions McKenzie said the city already has received, but the sources of which have yet to be identified.