Funding for soccer complex approved

The city of Fayetteville will be getting a competitive soccer complex this fall that includes $844,000 in construction cost, but will require the city to kick in additional funds for Phase I of this project. The biggest hurdle the city is facing is getting the complex built before grant money expires, which could prevent the city from receiving future grants.

During its second special called meeting within a week, the Fayetteville Board of Mayor and Aldermen found themselves “pushed back into a corner” to approve this convoluted plan or lose the $500,000 grant after Diakin donated land to the city in 2016 to be used for a soccer field. The state allowed the city to use the $600,000 land value as its share of the 50/50 match. The original plan, dated April 2018, called for a U12 field for young kids to play soccer - a plan, according to reports, that would have kept the city within budget.

However, changes to the layout of the soccer field and turning it into a competition field began at the June 1, 2020 Parks and Recreation Department committee meeting, where City Administrator Scot Collins and Aldermen Tonya Allen and Rachel Martinez were in attendance. Minutes from that meeting show where Martinez brought up field sizes and drainage, after having expressed parking concerns at the May meeting.

During last Tuesday’s meeting, Collins methodically read from last year’s committee meeting minutes from June through December. Plan revisions, design changes and proceeding through the environment process were documented in its August meetings and at the October 7 meeting. However, none of these actions was presented to the Finance Committee, monthly Work Sessions or the full board.

Last November, Parks & Recreation Director and Collins requested that $204,385 and $86,020 be included in the $5 million bond issue for soccer field lights and drainage. That request was approved after much discuss.

Vice Mayor Danny Bryant told Collins that proper procedures weren’t followed, but at the end of the day, “we can’t change the circumstances… and we’re having to put our necks on the line.”

Mayor Michael Whisenant also reminded Collins that the changes that began last June, as well as the redesign of the fields didn’t follow committee protocol. He also said that the added cost to the project was “substantial. It would have been better if you have come to the Finance Committee, then we wouldn’t have been blindsided.” Alderman Jeff Alder, who sits on the finance committee, said, “I would have liked for Parks and Recreation to have kept us informed.”

Collins never explained why he made this decision without board approval.

Grant Administrator Laralee Page and Joe Sawyer and Mary Vavra with Barge Designs Solutions joined last week’s meeting via Zoom. Using PowerPoint, Page showed June 2020 changes where the original field size of 180 x 310 ft. was increased to 220 x 360 ft. with a total cost increase of $330,308 that included $24,385 additional design for Barge; $305,923 for lighting and electrical ($180,000), irrigation ($86,020), and $39,903 for contingency.

The budget slide showed a total of $790,405, which included $75,000 for design and administrative; $24,385 for bond issue – additional design; $86,020 for bond irrigation and $180,000 bond issue lighting. Grant construction was $691,020, for an overall total of $790,405. Grant monies included $75,000 for design and administration and $425,000 for construction for a total of $500,000 for a difference of $290,405. The mayor questioned if any of these number had been duplicated. Page said there was no duplication.

The January 2021 Cost Estimates, which includes a larger field size, professional fees, grant construction and additional scope, has a $1,079.730 total. The January 28, 2021 baseline bid for construction with a larger field and Addition Scope for lighting and irrigation brings the total bid to $844,000. The final slide listed $1,083,385 as the total cost summary.

Prior to this presentation, Bryant made a motion to suspend the rules, which allowed the aldermen to ask questions and be better informed before voting. The motion was seconded and unanimously approved.

The mayor said he was uncomfortable that Knoxville-based Baseline Sports Construction, the only company to bid on the project, didn’t break out individual costs. “This is an unrealistic expectation to ask us to not know what each part will cost,” he added. Page said that Baseline is “sensitive about its numbers getting out in the event a rebid may be necessary.

“I don’t know how we got to this point,” said Alderman Donna Hartman. “I went back through the minutes of board meetings and work sessions. We had no input on this expensive fiasco,” reminding the board that the city doesn’t have a soccer league and most projects come with hidden costs.

This project does not include restrooms, a concession stand, bleachers, scoreboard or fencing.

Alderman Roger Martinez, who is highly in favor of this new complex and has been involved with soccer for many years, said many soccer fields don’t have concession stands or bathrooms. “We take our chairs and coolers and spend the day enjoying soccer.” He said that port-a-potties are often brought in for games. Page said the building project includes a concrete pad where port-a-potties can be placed.

The board asked what would happen if the project isn’t completed by the deadline in the event “something hits a snag.” Page and Vavre explained the process, assuring them that if the process begins immediately, it realistically could be finished in 180 days. Plus, the project must be completed before the city receives its share of the grant money.

Bryant made a motion that was seconded to approve the soccer grant fund for $1,084,355, using $206,000 from the Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) fund and up to $86,980 from the General Fund. Hartman cast the only no vote. Next, Bryant made the motion, seconded by Alder, to approve the $844,000 bid to the contractor with the contingency of approval from Local Parks and Recreation Fund Grant Program (LPRF). It was approved by a 5 – 1 vote.