New design, shared cost community center | News, sports, jobs
FAIRMONT — A community center design work session was held in the council chambers at Fairmont City Hall Wednesday evening. Participating parties included the Fairmont City Council and the Fairmont Area Community Center Foundation. Some representatives of the companies planning the project also attended to talk about it.
John Casper, a member of the foundation, opened the work session by saying one of its purposes is to get council approval and a vote at the Nov. 13 council meeting to build the facility as redesigned and estimated. Other key areas covered during the work session were final design and updating project cost and financial statements.
A joint public work session between key stakeholders has not been held since May, and Casper on Wednesday touched on some of the work the organization has been doing behind the scenes since then, which included appointing Tigra as owner’s representative on the project and hiring a new construction manager, RJM. The council had previously hired Krause Anderson as construction manager for the project.
In addition, they were working on finalizing the design, which included speaking to a variety of people including the design team and members of the Fairmont Area School District and the city of Fairmont, Casper said. Based on the design, he said they also updated the cost and budget, which was an update “violent” Something we do.
“We have been tasked with making sure this does not become the Taj Mahal, so our job is to right-size this project based on the funds available.” Casper said.
Finally, he said they have continued to pursue financing, which includes seeking a new market tax credit as well as raising money from the broader community.
“A big part of this is also planting the flag and making sure we’re moving toward the end goal. We’ve set a strict timeframe that has us starting construction in 2024 and wrapping up construction hopefully in 2025.” Casper said.
Amy Long, another member of the organization, talked about how they arrived at the final schematic design. In June, the organization received the final conceptual design and has since worked to arrive at the schematic design based on input from a number of groups including the YMCA, the school district and the Vermont Youth Hockey Association, Long noted.
Some key considerations were part of arriving at the final design, which, Casper said, included working with their budget.
“We also spent a lot of time talking about how we would use the space. Through the lens of the operator, partnering with the YMCA to work through whether the space is multi-purpose or dedicated and what we envision using the space for.” Long said.
In addition to programming, they also considered future operations and long-term sustainability of the facility, she said.
“We want to make sure we are building a sustainable building that adds value to our community.” She said.
Adam Davidson of JLG, the project architect, reviewed the design update and specified floor plans for the community center. He also talked about the benefits of the location (along Johnson Street) as well as plans to conduct a traffic and safety study.
As for the floor plan, Davidson shared details about the ground floor, which includes multi-purpose rooms, a party room, an auditorium, and a 10,600-square-foot gym that also has bleachers. The ground floor also includes a 7,400-square-foot natatorium that includes a large lap pool and a zero-depth entry pool with some water features.
Councilwoman Michelle Miller asked if the baby monitor/multi-purpose room could be converted into a daycare space if needed. At this time there will be no day care, but child monitoring is available for a few hours, Davidson said.
Miller also asked about the size of the pool, which she said didn’t appear to be any larger than the pool at the Best Western. She wondered if the swimming competition was still on the table.
Long said they have been in talks with the school district, which said there is no plan for a competition team at the high school level. However, she said they have been in talks with the YMCA about the possibility of bringing in an indoor or recreational swim team.
“We had to take into consideration our budget. The needs of the community versus the wants. We really feel like this is a good option for us.” Long said.
Moving to the second floor, Davidson touched on plans for a 3,500-square-foot fitness area that will include a running track and a group fitness room.
Councilman Jay Maynard asked a question about the square footage of the facility, specifically for the fitness area.
“There was a lot of discussion in the community about a fitness area and previous considerations for this design fluctuated anywhere between 6,000 and 11,000 square feet. Now we’re down to 3,500 square feet and I want to make sure that’s enough for programming, but I also think it should be noted … That 5,000 square feet is the maximum that some people consider to be the acceptable maximum for this community center… And with that I hope that people who were not satisfied with the larger size… will say they are happy.” Maynard said.
Councilman Randy Lupino returned to the question about custody. He asked if there was an estimated cost to add in an area designated for day care.
“Is it $500,000 or $5 million? What do we do with the code to make this an option?” Asked.
Long talked about the difference between day care and child monitoring, as well as before and after school programs. She said they have never been asked to support a day care center at the facility, and she said they don’t have the budget to do so. However, she said they have had a conversation with the YMCA, school district, Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center and Building Blocks about addressing those concerns.
Miller said in previous conversations they had talked about the possibility of hosting car shows or home shows inside the community center. She wondered if the facility was designed to be open to that.
“Right now, we don’t have an overhead door to accommodate or bring in such a thing.” Davidson said.
In response to questions about the door, which came from Miller and Lupino, Kasper said they were very diligent in keeping the scope of the project so that it was affordable.
“For that reason, yes there was a previous version, but there has to be a point where we have to say ‘no’ unless there is some way the city will help come up with the money to do it.” Casper said.
Next, the financial update was presented. Based on the submitted design, the current updated construction cost is just over $21.5 million, Casper said. The updated total cost of the project is just over $26.5 million.
“In terms of the New Market Tax Credit, this is a tremendous opportunity for the city… They are very optimistic that there is a high probability of getting $3.7 million or more for project funds.” Casper said.
However, he said the critical aspect of this is timing, which is why it is important that the project moves forward in time and that the project is ready by spring 2024.
“I think what’s even more exciting to talk about is that some additional donations have been made to this project. Tom Rosen, he and his family have committed $2 million in additional funds on top of their existing donation to go toward this project. It’s been organized as a matching gift,” Casper said.
Maynard addressed some of the things that were said. He noted that while the City Council had $12.6 million (collected in local option sales tax) allocated to the community city, it took $1.9 million of that amount to be used on mechanics for the ice arena.
“This number does not represent the entire shortfall. According to the paper here, we are not $1.9 million short, we are $3.9 million short.” Maynard said.
He said he would like to hear what the foundation thinks about the prospects for raising the necessary funds.
“We think the prospects are very good. We have faced two hurdles. “The people who have donated so far are really the ones who see the vision… The two hurdles we face are: what does it look like and how much does it cost.” Casper said.
He said that after Wednesday’s meeting, they have an updated design and cost, thus renewing efforts to get into the community and reach people who have been waiting for answers.
Brandon Edmondson, another member of the foundation, reviewed various items, including agreements with the YMCA and the overall timing and programming of the project.
“One of the terms in the original memo was that we would give you a design…and now we’re bringing it to you to get your feedback on it and hopefully we can vote on it at the next council meeting in November so we can continue to move forward with fundraising and through the rest of this process. Edmondson said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the council raised concerns about rushing to a decision at the November 13 meeting. Fairmont Interim City Manager Jeff O’Neill said the council will need time to review contracts/agreements that support expenses and operations, which he said are complex.
“I anticipated that a workshop might be needed to review these terms so that everyone feels comfortable and secure in everything related to the relationship.” O’Neill said.
Edmondson said he would like to move as quickly as possible, but only when everyone feels comfortable.
Casper said it’s important they get the design approved at the next council meeting so they can continue to move forward on schedule.
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