Posted 7/19/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
The Tioga Economic Development Corporation took another small step Tuesday to build a community center.
The EDC voted to put together a committee of volunteers who will begin work on plans and spearhead funding initiatives to get the project completed.
Members of this committee will identify funding sources, solicit community input on what people want to see in the center, and research ways in which other communities brought such projects to fruition, such as Crosby’s skating rink.
The committee currently includes Commissioner Heather Weflen, EDC President Chris Norgaard, and Tioga Fund Board President David Grubb.
The EDC is looking for more volunteers to join the committee.
Tioga Schools Superintendent Carolyn Eide suggested one committee member should be a high school student.
She pointed out kids in other towns that have built such centers use them frequently.
By including members of the city commission and public, it will help generate “buy in” for the project from residents and the city.
This is not the first time Tioga has looked at building such a project, but last month the Bank of Tioga provided $100,000 as seed money for the building.
The EDC board looked at 2014 concept drawings for a library and community center. Engineer Antonio Conti said the project was a “pipe dream” that came to a halt without going beyond basic drawings.
“In all reality, what killed this project was the $15 million price tag that came with it,” he said.
The rough, projected budget for the current project is $2.5 million, according to Norgaard.
Conti said the city should look into how much volunteer labor can be utilized for the project. Crosby’s skating rink, he said, saved a lot of money by relying on the service of volunteers.
Keeping the costs down will be a challenge, he warned.
The current building is 11,000 square feet and there’s no feasible option to rehabilitate the existing structure.
“That building is coming down,” said Norgaard.
Conti put a very rough estimation of construction costs for a replacement building at about $150 per square foot, which would put a $1.65 million price tag on a similar sized building.
But that’s just the building. Once you add in services, the price starts to go up.
“Plumbing and mechanical is what drives your price,” Conti explained.
Parking could also add to the cost of the building, as city ordinances will require a certain amount of parking depending on the size of the building. Each square foot of parking will run about $25.
The EDC also discussed how the bidding process would be conducted and whether or not state laws requiring the project go out to bid would apply to this project.
Without knowing where all the funding would come from, the EDC members agreed it is too soon to determine if the project would have to go out to bid or what other requirements, such as the use of an architect, they would have to meet.
Conti said in the past couple of years, the state has required the use of a construction manager at risk (CMAR).
This general contractor acts as the primary point of contact between all the subcontractors and the project owner.
If the EDC must use a CMAR for the community center, it does add somewhat to the cost of building, but Dan Larson, city building inspector, said it can make a project run more smoothly.
The timeline for the project is still uncertain but construction is unlikely to begin prior to 2018. The biggest hurdle will be funding.
Conti said even after the planning is done, the budget gets firmed up. At that point, you have to go back to the plans and decide what to cut in order to bring the project in line with budget figures.
He said Watford City spent six months scaling back its community center in order to fit the budget it ultimately had.