Nov. 15, 2018 – After a lengthy discussion at their Nov. 15 meeting, the Dunlap City Commission voted on several items in hopes of moving ahead with improvements to Harris Park and Coops Creek Trail.
HARRIS PARK, PHASE 2
Plans for construction of a farmer's market/family pavilion, a children's splash pad, and new restrooms at Dunlap's Harris Park were approved two years ago, with construction supposed to begin in 2017. Because of various delays, bids are just now being approved, and what has come in is over budget.
Project designer Benjamin Farmer, representing the Farmer-Morgan firm, recommended the Board of Commissioners accept a low bid of $1.535 million from Lee Construction, LLC, which is $535,000 over budget, and does not include restrooms or site work. Also bidding was Elite Retail Services
A state grant of $500,000 through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Recreation (TDEC) helped jump-start the development, and the city issued bonds for the local match of an equal amount.
“Year-over-year, we've seen a 30-40 percent increase in price of materials,” Farmer said. “That's not been helpful.” But Farmer suggested the commission accept the bid and then haggle over details.
“You're going into this bid knowing you don't have funding for it?” city attorney Russell Anne Swafford asked.
“Can we not do that through change orders?” Mayor Dwain Land asked.
“Yes, we can,” Farmer replied.
After some discussion, the commission came up with wording that would cover the lack of funds: To accept the bids as submitted, "contingent on reductions on the scope of work through change orders or finding additional funds."
Additions to the initial project, including utility hookups at the pavilion for Valley Fest to use and replacing gravel in the stage area with grass have helped run the bill up, but according to Mayor Land the main increase has been in the cost of materials, for several reasons: An improving economy, increased demand due to natural disasters in other states, and a requirement under the Trump administration that all government-funded projects use American-made materials.
Commissioners discussed taking the pavilion out of the project altogether.
“If the building has to go....” Comm. Allen Jones began. “Without the building, Elite Retail Services is cheaper than Lee Construction.”
“I'm old-fashioned,” Comm. Jeff Harmon said. “I believe in paying your bills. So we need to find a way to pay for this.”
“This happens all the time,” Treasurer-Recorder Norman Hatfield said, “because engineers come up with a design, and then it takes almost a year to get the grant design approved.”
When it came to a vote, the City Commission voted unanimously to approve the Lee Construction bids with the provisions stated.
“Just get us some grass,” Harmon said after the vote.
“Get us some grass,” Jones repeated with a laugh.
“Yeah, get us some grass,” Comm. Judy Layne said, in reference to the replacement of gravel with grass in front of the stage at Harris Park.
COOPS CREEK, TDOT AMENDMENT
Then came time for two different decisions to be made regarding the next step in the greenway: To vote on an amendment to funding by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), and to consider bids on the construction.
Phase 2 of Coops Creek Trail will involve construction of a crosswalk where the trail currently ends next to Sonic restaurant on Rankin Avenue, construction of the trail behind the strip mall to cross Jones Drive to the county schools complex, and then a parking lot and trailhead that join the trail to bike lanes on TN 28 south of Dunlap.
TDOT rejected all bids that had been received previously, upped both their grant funding and the city's required match, and then ordered the project re-bid.
Under the TDOT amendment, the bids that ranged from $1.021 million to $1.4 million were rejected. The budget went from $503,147 in state grant and $125,786 city match to $1.226 million in state funds and $306,562 in city funds. The city does not have that extra money available to put in the project at this time.
With construction planned to begin about February, the commission determined that the additional funds could be put in the FY 2019-20 budget.
“We can raise property taxes or try issuing capital outlay notes,” Hatfield suggested. “We can issue capital outlay notes up to 12 years. I wouldn't want to raise taxes for this one item, because taxes are there from now on. I wouldn't raise taxes.”
“It's hard to turn down an 80-to-20 match when we're planning for the future,” Harmon said. “We'll just have to tighten our belts and pay for it.”
The commission voted unanimously to accept the TDOT amendment.
COOPS CREEK, PHASE 2 BIDS
Then came time to vote on bids submitted for construction of Coops Creek, Phase 2. A low bid of $855,647 by Adams Contracting, LLC, of Lexington, Ky., was accepted by unanimous vote.
Land said plans are to have the new section of trail open before the
start of school in 2020. The commission would like to use any extra funds available to put lighting along the trail.
In other business, the Dunlap City Commission:
- Approved an increase in compensation to Farmer-Morgan commensurate with the increased budget from TDOT, which would be the “standard percentage,” according to Comm. Jones.
- Heard Dunlap Police Chief Clint Huth report 365 calls in October, which resulted in 116 arrests or citations.
Chief Huth also expressed thanks to Marion Animal Rescue Connection (MARC) and McKamey Animal Clinic for helping handle 100 cats and dogs rescued from the “first ever” animal hoarders arrested by local police.
“To date, we have five or six cats remaining,” Huth said. “The rest of them have either been adopted out to various homes or are in foster homes. There was a tremendous outpouring of donations, and 30 people at a time showing up to volunteer, from as far away as Knoxville. But without MARC we would've been struggling.”
The Dunlap City Commission meets the third Thursday of each month, at 6 p.m. CST, in the upstairs commission chambers of City Hall, Rankin Avenue, Dunlap. Meetings are open to the public.