City moves forward on gym land purchase option
The Fairfield City Council cautiously approved the next steps for designing and acquiring land for a new gymnasium Monday night at city hall.
The council approved an option to buy property adjoining the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center for the gym and also approved the Recreational Facilities Task Force to solicit prices from architects and construction managers to design the project.
Finance and fundraising committee member Tom McMahon presented to the mayor and council members on behalf of the task force, underscoring the importance of finding a construction manager to begin planning for the gym before fundraising is complete. While the city has selected Burbach Aquatics Architects & Engineers for the new outdoor pool, the city has not yet selected an architect or construction firm for the gymnasium.
The two projects are estimated to cost $10 million to build, $3 million of which Fairfield citizens approved for the city to pay with general obligation bonds. Mayor Ed Malloy said he will not draw on the funds until the task force raises the majority of the remaining $7 million in private donations.
The fundraising committee has raised $1,515,000 thus far in private gifts and pledges, and McMahon said the fundraising subcommittee hopes to acquire the rest by April 30.
“The day we hit $7 million we have got to be ready,” said McMahon. “There’s no way for us to move forward without a design.”
McMahon said if the city selects firms soon so they’re “shovel ready” by April 30, the pool could be complete July 2014 and the gym by the end of 2014. McMahon recommended the city take bids for a construction manager who could oversee the project from beginning to end, instead of a general manager who would not be involved in designing the facilities.
“A construction manager would see the project from the design phase through construction,” he said. “It allows for collaboration on design side, value engineering that shortens time of project, and the ability to work with our local contractors.”
While the council unanimously approved soliciting bids from construction managers and architects, several council members and the mayor expressed concern about entering into obligations before the funding is in place.
“We’re not committing to anything financially yet,” said Malloy.
The city did, however, commit $8,000 for an option to buy a 2.75-acre property adjacent to the rec center for $210,000. The property, 1004 W. Burlington Ave., has been listed with Fairfield Farm and Home Real Estate for a year for $225,000.
“This is not a commitment, but gives us the option to buy, if we so choose, at the specified price,” said Malloy.
The $8,000 will be paid with Local Option Sales Tax funding, designated for community betterment, according to ways and means committee member Daryn Hamilton.
He said L.O.S.T. funds are the only place he sees in the current budget for the city to contribute toward the pool and gym project.
Hamilton said he wasn’t sure if the city could pay to hire a construction manager before private donations are all secured.
“We’ll need to look long and hard at how to pay for some of these things without using pledged money or bond money,” said Hamilton.
While McMahon expressed optimism, he also was frank that the fundraising stage is entering a critical time.
“The next 30 to 60 days will really tell us where we stand,” said McMahon.
He said the fundraising committee’s focus has been to seek all of its largest potential donations.
“We’ve reached out to folks we thought were our major donors,” he said.
While many already have made pledges, he said others are still contemplating their contribution.
“We hope the next 30 days reels them in,” he said.
In the meantime, the committee is now entering its second stage of fundraising, contacting friends and neighbors. The task force has found 57 residents who have agreed to ask at least five people to donate gifts to the project. He and Jodi Kerr will be meeting at 7 p.m. today at First National Bank to train volunteers in how to solicit donations. He said they’re hoping to more than double the amount of people asking for donations.
“Raising $7 million is going to take some personal ask,” said McMahon. “We need people to explain what it really means to get this thing [the pool and gym project] done.”
The task force has approached the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors for funding ideas, but said no agreement has come out of talks thus far. He also said the task force will pursue federal grants to help fund the project.
He announced the Jefferson County Foundation has agreed to take on administrative duties of managing the private fund for the facilities as a donation to the project.