City of Statesboro and Bulloch County officials have slated a re-opening ceremony for the extensively renovated Luetta Moore Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for 1 p.m. Saturday, July 31, but not yet for the Rev. W.D. Kent Park on Grady Street.
The ceremony will mark the opening of Luetta Moore Park’s new swimming pool, splash pad, volleyball court and playground. So the city and county governments are inviting people to bring their swimsuits to try the pool and splash pad free between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. that day, and also from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1.
After opening weekend, admission to these water features with their bathhouse will be $3 per person, but use of the ball courts, playground and new family pavilions with grills will be free of charge.
Meanwhile, work on the Grady Street park will continue into August, city officials said Tuesday. Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles said the combined park renovation costs remain within the $4.5 million the city government borrowed for the purpose, after a series of change orders.
The latest of these changes, unanimously approved Tuesday by City Council, added a $110,946 payment to general contractor Lavender & Associates for “demucking” the parking area at the Grady Street park so that it could be paved. This was an item city staff had not anticipated but had, in a sense, planned for, Boyles told the council.
“We had planned for it through our cost cushion, if you will, through the budget,” he said. “So we are still under budget with this item and still on track.”
The contractor, when preparing the install the base material for paving, discovered “unsuitable soils” that were wet and saturated, Boyles said. The added expense included hauling the mud away, placing geotextile fabric and drainage materials, hauling in other soil and testing by a lab, according to a City Council memo.
This work had already been done. Boyles referred to “a couple of feet” of soil being removed, and Mayor Jonathan McCollar, who had observed it being done, said what looked like “a little pond” had accumulated.
A 20% cushion
The “cost cushion” in the budget includes a 20% contingency City Manager Charles Penny allowed for in the construction budget. Exactly 20% of Lavender & Associates’ bid contract price of $2,877,954 would be $575,591, but Penny rounded up to $600,000, he said earlier this year.
The change order awarded Tuesday was not the first, and construction costs for both parks now appear to be close to the bid plus contingency. As previously reported, seven change orders approved by the council May 18 totaled $107,136, and six approved April 20 totaled $349,809. The largest costs were for landscaping, irrigation and fencing.
Those earlier change orders to Lavender plus Tuesday’s order would total $597,891, but some of the earlier items may have been substitutions for other materials already in the contract price.
Paid to other firms
Non-construction costs, separate from Lavender’s contract, have included $499,684 to GameTime for the playground equipment for both parks and $105,422 to Bulloch Solutions for telecommunication and security infrastructure. The estimated cost of issuing the bond to Truist Bank, which loaned the $4.5 million through the city’s Urban Redevelopment Agency at 1.47% annual interest, with 10 years to repay, was $80,000.
At the outset, the council also agreed to pay Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, which designed the park renovations, up to $33,560 to administer the construction. The city also has separate contracts with Georgia Power for lighting, Boyles noted in a reply email.
He did not have a new cumulative total of all the costs as of Wednesday.
But it appears to have surpassed $4.2 million, and Penny, who was away Tuesday, had told the council in mid-May that about $300,000 was left of the $4.5 million.
Council members and the mayor said citizens have been asking if the park renovations are going over budget.
“What I have explained in that case is that $4.5 (million) is the total amount that’s been allotted for that project and we’re not at that point as of yet,” McCollar said during Tuesday’s meeting.
On city-owned land in Statesboro neighborhoods, these two parks are operated by the county-funded Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department.
Initiating the park renovations, the city government committed $1.1 million to begin repaying the loan. But the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners also committed $1 million, or $200,000 annually for five years, from the county’s revenue from the 2019 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, for these park improvements.
Statesboro officials expect to propose funding the rest of the bond repayment as part of a referendum for SPLOST renewal to be put before Bulloch County voters by November 2024.
Making an informal visit Tuesday evening to Luetta Moore Park, McCollar said the improvements are a worthwhile community investment. Besides the pool and the spray pad, which he had seen operating earlier, the tables and the grills had been installed. The last one of the four large pieces of playground equipment had been delivered and was the only one remaining to be installed.
“I’m really excited about this,” McCollar said. “If we were just doing this park alone, it would be a great addition, but when you add in the fact that we’ve got a basketball pavilion coming, another state-of-the-art playground coming to this community, it really adds to the quality of life for people across the entire city.”
Coming to Grady St.
That three-court, covered basketball pavilion and the other Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, multi-age playground will be features of renovated Kent Park on Grady Street when it reopens. That park will not have a pool, but it will also have two family picnic pavilions with grills, an outdoor basketball half-court, a walking trail and renovated restrooms.
Luetta Moore Park retains its basketball court, the Jones-Love Cultural Center and the Zadie Lundy Douglas Little League Field, which also received some renovations.
After opening weekend, the pool and splash pad are scheduled to operate 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays, plus 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 6, before closing until May. When open, the pool will have certified lifeguards on duty.