High Cost Could Delay ITID Community Center

The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors decided Wednesday to postpone hiring an architect and land planner to work on the proposed community center envisioned as part of the expansion of Acreage Community Park.

Supervisors were concerned that cost overruns might stop them from completing the project.

ITID President Michelle Damone said she had grown concerned about the cost of the building, since estimates have come in too close to the district’s available financing.

“We went through the procurement exercise and would utilize a majority of the funds without a cushion, and I’m not comfortable,” Damone said, recommending that the board consider other options, such as a “design-build” plan where the building would be constructed within the financing the district has available and the builder takes the responsibility for cost overruns.

Also, Damone noted that she recently visited a facility in Palm Springs made of metal that has space and all the necessary amenities, but was built for much less than a traditional cement-and-block building. “It is our responsibility to be innovative and put our heads together and be creative to build our community center under budget, and one we can be comfortable with,” Damone said.

She said the metal building in Palm Springs was built for about $300,000 as opposed to more than $3 million estimated for ITID’s planned building.

“I’m not opposed to a metal building,” Damone said. “We can put some landscaping in front of it.”

Further, Damone said she would like to pursue a design-build option. “We can state what our budget is and what we are looking for,” she said. “We need to defer the items on this agenda tonight. I’m personally not comfortable moving forward. I don’t believe it is fiscally responsible.”

Supervisor Carlos Enriquez said he had an interesting conversation with an architect who explained the design-build process.

Supervisor Ralph Bair said he did not object to the delay, but wanted to hear what the architects attending the meeting had to say. “I was for a metal building a long way back, but I still want to hear from the architects,” he said.

Supervisor Carol Jacobs said that if she had the option of doing the building or the fields first, she would prefer the fields. “We have a [county] library that will open in a few months,” she said. “I’m not a big fan of steel buildings, although you can make it look like it is not a steel building.”

Supervisor Jennifer Hager preferred to go through with their original plan, pointing out that the community center is a vision of the board. “If we’re going to go backward, then everybody has to go backward,” Hager said. “I don’t want my name on a steel building.”

Hager said if they cannot afford a cement building, they should wait until they can.

ITID Attorney Frank Palin said a design-build option would require more research. “Up to this point, we have advertised for a different approach,” Palin said, explaining that they would have to have design criteria, then send out a proposal.

Damone asked whether design criteria could be done in a workshop, and Palin said he believed it could, but reiterated that the architects there that evening to make presentations were not solicited on that basis.

Applicant René Tercilla of Tercilla Courtemanche Architects said that working under a design-build method could result in a building that is falling apart after 10 years. He pointed out that there are different grades of materials that can be used, and that design-build could result in lower quality. As an example, he said there are seven different levels of gym flooring available, each of which has a certain life expectancy.

Applicant Mike Guinaugh of Mike Guinaugh Engineering said utilizing the design-build option typically comes when there is limited building time. He said there is no doubt in his mind that he could meet the budget, but added that the community center and the outdoor fields cannot be built realistically for the money allocated.

“I live here; I believe it’s needed,” Guinaugh said. “Do you want the building or the fields? You can’t have both.”

Jacobs said that from her experience in the construction industry, she accepted both the architects’ comments. “They’re telling you the truth,” she said. “When there is not oversight, they will cut corners.”

Damone said she felt that they could build onto the park gradually when more money becomes available, but did not want to wind up with an unfinished community center. “I’m looking for people to be visionaries and tell us what we can do, not what we can’t do,” she said. “What has been presented to us we cannot do.”

Enriquez asked how close they are to a workable plan, and ITID Administrator Tanya Quickel said an architect would have to tell them.

Tercilla said he would be able to tell them within weeks of being on board. “At any point you can just say, ‘We’re not going to do this,’” he said. “At this point you haven’t really taken on any responsibility or any debt. You can pull the plug.”

Tercilla offered to do the initial cost estimating for free in order to give the board a good view of what they were in for.

Bair made a motion to defer selection of the architect, which carried 4-1 with Hager opposed.

Bair also made a motion to hold a workshop Wednesday, Feb. 22 to discuss the issue further. That motion carried unanimously.