Council committee votes to recommend $450,000 budget on Merrill renovation

The Pine Bluff City Council’s Public Works Committee, meeting Tuesday afternoon at the civic center, voted to recommend to the full council adoption of a $450,00 budget on the proposed renovation of the parks and recreation department’s Merrill Center.

The total includes an unexpected potential expense of an estimated $112,545 for new roofing on the center and an adjacent gym. A recent inspection of the building showed that it has sustained storm damages.

Committee Chairman Alderman Steven Mays initially attempted to lessen Alderman Bill Brumett’s motion for the $450,000 budget. Mays suggested a reduction to $400,000 before finally agreeing to Brumett’s motion. Mays said a proposed multipurpose center should be the council’s primary focus, but Brumett said that the Merrill Center improvements would have “no impact” on the multipurpose facility.

The other committee member, Alderman George Stepps, was absent.

Should the council approve the preliminary budget, architect Fred Reed of Reed Architectural Firm in Pine Bluff will take a deeper look at how possible enhancements should be prioritized. Any recommendations would have to be endorsed by the council before any funds can be expended or work initiated.

Money for the Merilll Center enhancements would be obtained from reserve revenues off collections of a five-eighths cent sales tax approved by voters in 2011 and earmarked for capital improvements.

The roofing figures to be the primary expense, as figured by Reed. Other projected needs range from $842 for curb stops to $68,625 for new flooring, primarily in the gym.

Reed also estimated renovation costs of $34,828 for electrical work; $26,541 for new ceilings; $19,970 for mill work; $19,785 for painting and refinishing; $19,092 for new flooring; $14,436 for new plumbing; $14,400 for exterior painting; and $11,520 to remodel restrooms so they would be in compliance with federal guidelines concerning the disabled.

The architect/engineering fee was figured at $33,425.

Alderwoman Thelma Walker attended the meeting as an observer and promoted an idea of completely refurnishing the Merrill Center’s kitchen as part of the package. Mayor Debe Hollingsworth suggested that kitchen equipment currently at the unused former Army Reserve/National Guard armory on Myrtle Street be transported to the center, but Walker said she would prefer new items.

Reed listed five measures that could trim renovation costs by over $120,000. They included leaving some roof areas as is for the time being, representing a savings of $60,000; and simply painting instead of replacing a concrete gym floor, for a deduction of $47,000.

Reed estimated that following a council approval on proposed work, a bid process would require three to four months and actual improvements would take another three months. Walker and Mays asked Reed to determine how the process might be accelerated.

Hollingsworth said the Pine Bluff School District had agreed to allow the nearby Greenville Elementary School to be utilized free of charge should the center be closed for repairs during the school year. During the summer months, the school would be available at a monthly fee of $6,000. She said the process schedule as figured by Reed would largely coincide with Greenville’s closing and reopening.

Also attending the meeting were Jonathan Frazier, Krandon Henry and Roy Tolson, recently approved by the council as members of the parks and recreation commission.