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Carroll commissioners move an additional $3.2 million for Charles Carroll Community Center project; Bouchat dissents

The Carroll County Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 on Thursday to approve the transfer of $3.2 million to complete the Charles Carroll Community Center project near Silver Run. Commissioner Eric Bouchat was the lone dissenting vote

Charles Carroll Elementary School was closed at the end of the 2015-16 school year and demolished in April of 2018, leaving the Silver Run community without a community focal point. The commissioners voted unanimously in 2018 to build a new facility with a large gymnasium and rooms for the community to use.

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The Charles Carroll Community Center would provide a gym, multipurpose rooms and a kitchenette and have a capacity of about 400 people.

The project was initially estimated at $5.1 million in 2017. But due to budget restraints, commissioners granted approval of $3.5 million for demolition of the existing school, architecture and civil engineering design, site development and to construct the new building.

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During preliminary design process, a change was made to include gymnasium bleachers and concrete masonry block for the bottom four feet of the structure. In addition, the State Highway Administration required a deceleration lane be added along northbound Route 97 for the entrance of the facility.

With these changes, the commissioners approved an additional $640,000 in 2018 to offset the added costs.

John Bowers, bureau chief of building construction, said the lowest construction bid came in at $5.5 million bringing the total cost of the community center project to $7.2 million. To make up the difference, the department requested to transfer the $3.2 million from a water development project fund to the community center.

While the commercial construction industry has experienced a surge in new projects over the past eighteen months causing an increase in the cost of construction material, the total cost of this project has increased, according to a meeting document.

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Kurk Engel, project manager, said the scope of work for the building includes the construction of a 13,000 square foot prefabricated metal community center facility designed to include a 6,600 square foot multiuse gymnasium with bleachers, a technology room and another multipurpose room. The gymnasium will have a multipurpose use floor outlined for basketball, volleyball and pickleball.

In order for the county to fully fund the project, Deborah Effingham, bureau chief of budget, told the board they had an option to find an appropriation within the capital budget.

“We have a capital project called water development … There’s $5 million that was put there in case any water development projects came along that you could act on,” she said. “We don’t have any plans right now to use that funding.”

Commissioner President Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said he thought the project was a good idea from day one but his “biggest challenge” is moving money right now.

“I want to see the project move forward but I don’t want to see it move forward on the backs of other dollars that we’re using,” he said.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, suggested looking into potential options to decrease the cost with bureau staff responding they don’t expect to be able to bring down the cost a significant amount.

“We’re putting a basic building there as is,” Commissioner Stephan Wantz, R-District 1, said. “To elude to the fact that there may be more bells and whistles that we need there is just wrong.”

Ted Zalenki, director of management and budget, said the funding set aside for water development has been sitting for years and the only way to fund the $3.2 million for the center in the middle of a budget year is to find an existing appropriation in the capital budget.

“We don’t have a lot of choices,” he added.

Bouchat, R-District 4, said pulling the money for the community center project is “sheer lunacy” and an “inappropriate use of the limited resources” the county has. He suggested putting the project on hold for now.

“If we put this on hold it’s going to make it harder for this project to occur and put off something we’ve been promising to the community for years,” Wantz said.

Later in the meeting, commissioners voted 4-1, with Bouchat dissenting, to award a contract for the construction of the community center to North Point Builders, Inc. for approximately $5.5 million.

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