By Ted Schnell • BocaJump | Thursday, June 28, 2012
A divided Elgin City Council voted 5-2 on Wednesday to award the first two contracts for renovations to the city’s Eastside Recreation Center, despite concerns about escalating costs associated with a planned renovation to the aging facility.
Councilmen John Prigge and Richard Dunne questioned the wisdom of making the repairs when it is clear the scope of the work needed to refurbish the building is more costly than the city anticipated. The city purchased the building in 2007 know renovations would be needed.
The Parks and Recreation Department in October secured a $1.84 million grant from the state for the renovation project, which aims to make some long-needed repairs such as plumbing and electrical upgrades, replacement of flooring and windows, replacement of the heating system and installation of air-conditioning, and to bring the facility into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The stated grant requires the city to match that with about $613,700.
But bids apparently came in $1 million over the $2.45 million anticipated cost of the project. Parks and Recreation Director Randy Reopelle told the council that the city then redefined the project to curb expenses and called for new bids.
The council on Wednesday approved the first two — awarding a $317,900 contract to Driessen Construction for masonry work, and a $165,424 contract to F.H. Paschen for work related to the classroom area and a retaining wall.
The city staff hopes to bring a bid for the rest of the work to the City Council in July, but it wanted to proceed with these first two contracts as being higher priorities. The bulk of the masonry contract will be for repairs to the facility’s east wall.
Reopelle said redefining the project has reduced the $1 million increase to just $144,000.
Dunne said he feared the project was proceeding piecemeal instead of being considered in its entirety.
Prigge, who opposed the city’s application for the grant because of the requirement that the city pay 25 percent of the project’s cost, said he fears the city will become a money bit, and wondered if city can continue operating two recreation centers. The Eastside Recreation Center, he said, lost $720,000 last year.
Other council members defended the facility, however, noting that it serves a diverse population, including a large number of low-income residents. The facility saw 95,000 visitors in 2010.
Councilman Robert Gilliam, who returned to Wednesday’s meeting after a lengthy absence related to a family health crisis, was among those defending the renovation.
“I think it is important to have two facilities — you're acting like these people are freeloaders and that is not true,” Gilliam said. “They pay taxes, too.
“We spent $30 million on The Centre, and now we're talking about not spending $2.4 million for a program that helps the police department by keeping kids off the street,” he said. “It serves a diverse population.”Councilwoman Tish Powell echoed Gilliam’s remarks, adding that the $144,000 increase in cost represents an increase of a little more than 5 percent. “We’ve had capital projects with far larger increases over their original budgets,” she said.