Council, CAPC fund $1M building projects
In February during a tour of the maintenance building, Mayor Butch Berry mentioned his desire for a new structure to house public works equipment. The Eureka Springs City Council voted at a special called meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 25, to see Berry’s vision through, agreeing to move forward with Nabholz Construction on a new maintenance building and renovations at the Auditorium — a bundled project totaling more than $1 million.
The council heard from Nabholz representative Kent Doughty, who said the maintenance building would cost up to $896,111 if the council used a pre-engineered metal building. Doughty said the council could save $41,186 through an alternate plan that utilizes a steel truss building structure. With $74,634 in savings from completing the two projects concurrently, that would bring the total cost for the maintenance building project to $780,291.
Council member Autumn Slane asked about the difference in life expectancy between the two buildings and Doughty said they are identical. Council member Harry Meyer asked if the building plan takes snow load into consideration and Berry said it does.
“They’re all designed to the engineer’s specification for the wind load, snow load … so they do all meet the minimum costs,” Berry said.
Meyer asked if the open truss building would mean a lower fire rating and Berry said both buildings would have the same fire rating.
The new maintenance building, to be located directly behind the existing facility, would include an open shop and a break room with a kitchen, Doughty said. Public works director Dwayne Allen said some of the city’s equipment is sitting outside because there’s not enough room to store it in the existing facility. A new maintenance building would be a big deal for the public works department, Allen said.
Doughty moved on to present the renovations at the Auditorium, which include an elevator and restroom that are handicap-accessible. The total cost of that project would be $293,895, Doughty said, if the council agreed to complete the renovations and the maintenance building at the same time. That’s a savings of $69,914, Doughty said, on the project at the Auditorium alone.
“We could save several thousands of dollars,” Doughty said. “If you were to approve one project and not the other, we can’t take advantage of that.”
Combined with the savings on the maintenance building project, Doughty said, the city could save $144,548 by completing the projects concurrently. The total for both projects would total $1,074,186. Council member Terry McClung asked where that money is coming from, and finance director Lonnie Clark said the city “can just barely come up with enough money to fund both of these projects.”
“You mean cash?” McClung asked.
“The city’s coming up with the cash?” Slane asked. “I don’t agree with this.”
Clark said part of the funding will come from franchise fees the city has collected, with nearly $800,000 in that account. The city should receive a reimbursement on its solar project for about $420,000, Clark said, to make up for the rest of the funds. Berry said the City Advertising and Promotion Commission would consider funding part of the renovations at the Auditorium.
McClung said he wasn’t comfortable acting so fast on the project, and Meyer said the city already funded a new firehouse and police station. It’s only right to take care of the public works department, Meyer said.
“Nobody argues that point. The public works, they’ve been the poor bastard stepchild,” McClung said. “I understand that … but at the same time, three years ago, we were robbing Peter to pay Paul. We couldn’t give raises. We couldn’t do nothing.”
McClung continued, “And all of a sudden, we have more money than we think we could need. I ain’t buying into it. I’m just one vote, but I still think you’re moving just a little too fast.”
Slane asked if the city has money in reserves and Clark said there’s enough money to operate between three to five months without any significant revenue coming in.
“You’ll probably find not another city that can do better than that,” Clark said.
The council then voted 4-2 to approve both projects to run concurrently with the use of the steel truss building. McClung and Slane were the two dissenting votes.
Later that evening, the CAPC met for its regular workshop and meeting. Chair Jeff Carter said during the workshop that the city has asked the CAPC to fund 75 percent of the elevator construction, which would total $220,421.25. Tourism director Madison Dawson said the CAPC could split the cost into a five-year plan, paying the city $44,084.25 annually.
When the CAPC addressed the Auditorium during its regular meeting, Meyer stated, “I vote that we approve,” before Carter interrupted him.
“I don’t think we need to,” Carter said.
“It’s in the budget, Harry,” commissioner Carol Wright said.
Wright asked how the annual payments would affect the CAPC and finance director Rick Bright said it shouldn’t be a problem. Commissioner Bobbie Foster said she didn’t see the proposal until an hour before the meeting. Carter said no one did.
“Because the city had a meeting at 3:30 and it went until 10 minutes before our meeting,” Carter said. “This is happening, I agree, extremely fast, but we are on the clock here.”
Carter suggested waiting until everyone had a chance to look at the proposal and commissioner James DeVito said he’d rather approve the funding immediately.
“Well, Bobbie asked to wait,” Wright said.
“Well, I understand Bobbie asked to wait, but there are seven commissioners,” DeVito said.
DeVito then moved to accept the bid from Nabholz Construction for $293,895 with the condition that the CAPC would pay $45,000 per year until the project is paid off. Everyone voted to approve the motion except Foster.