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Formed and poured - Tour of new community center, halfway complete

By Wendy Giroux

Construction workers are about halfway through the schedule for the new community center, and the project is on time and on budget.

Four City Council members and a few community members toured the construction site last Tuesday to check out the progress firsthand.

Citizens who attended are members of an ad hoc group that will help name some of the rooms at the new center.

Project manager for the city, Brandy Matthews Fox, led the tour and gave a more detailed update at the City Council meeting later the same day.

``We have the entire lower level formed and poured,'' Matthews Fox said. The gymnasium walls are going up, and workers are installing footings on other portions of the site.

``We're all breathing a sigh of relief to be at this point,'' she said. ``Things are progressing well.''

After a period of heavy rains this winter, the recent weather has been much more cooperative.

Councilmen El Jahncke, Steve Litzow, Bryan Cairns and Dan Grausz attended the tour. Mayor Alan Merkle and councilmen Jim Pearman and Sven Goldmanis have toured previously.

Inside the lower level, the tour-takers saw the future site of the dance studio floor, currently a large space of recessed concrete.

The construction schedule calls for steel to go up by mid-March or April, and windows will begin to be installed shortly after that, Matthews Fox said. The contractor should be done with construction by late fall, the move-in will happen in December and the center should open in January, Matthews Fox said. While slightly behind the original baseline schedule, the project is within the city's overall timeline, she said.

Parks and Recreation Director Pete Mayer said he plans to begin looking for a manager for the center this summer and have that person on staff by September.

With city officials working their way through the budget for furniture, fixtures and equipment, the only large chunk of remaining funds is the construction contingency, which has a balance of about $401,000, she said. That money will likely be spent before the process is done, however.

Out of the original contingency of $625, 357, the following has been spent:

  • $17,554 on a change in the demolition contract to remove additional material.
  • $80,000 for a pay-in-lieu of stormwater detention fee to the city.
  • $35,000 to re-grade soil to a lower level to accommodate neighbors' views.
  • $50,000 to import crushed rock material for backfill of footings during wet season.
  • $41,472 for miscellaneous things such as changes to the hydroseed mixture, fencing, additional drain pipes under the gym slab, filling an abandoned sewer line and the rough-in of the security system.

``We've spent quite a bit of money in dirt,'' Matthews Fox said. ``The original plan was to use native fill and soil, which works great with weather like we have now.''

However, during the rainy periods, the native soil essentially liquefied and wasn't usable for projects such as backfilling around footings, she explained.

One remaining issue is what will be done with the hill of dirt and fill materials adjacent to the Pea Patch. After talking with neighbors near the site last fall, city officials decided to bring the height of the hill down a bit. The issue was still being discussed when the season got late enough that the contractor had to seed the hill to protect it from erosion with grass for the impending rains.

A couple of options are still possible, Matthews Fox said, including lowering the hill about another six feet, or ``benching'' the hill down at intervals from the top of the hill reaching out toward the lake.

Overall, interactions with neighbors have gone well, she said.

Councilman Steve Litzow asked about potential problems between now and the completion of construction. Matthews Fox listed possible labor strikes, timely delivery of materials and weather issues.

``Any project report that says, `On time, on budget and contingency two-thirds intact,' is always good,'' Mayor Alan Merkle said, thanking her for the report.

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