Work on the city of Fairhope’s long-awaited soccer complex could be nearing kick-off after the city council accepted $2.4 million in construction bids at Monday night’s regular meeting.

The council approved four separate bids for the proposed nine-field complex planned at the corner of Baldwin County 13 and Manley Road, east of Fairhope Middle School. The complex will be built on nearly 40 acres of land located just south of the Summerlake subdivision and east of new home construction at Saddlewood.

The complex will include two “championship” fields, 433 paved parking spaces, 77 overflow parking spaces, 15 spaces designated for handicap parking and enough space for five buses.

The bulk of the money will be spent on grading, drainage, grass and irrigation. The council approved $894,017.05 for grass and an irrigation system from Tupelo, Miss., company Stewart Environmental Construction, Inc., the lowest of three bidders for the project.

It also approved a low bid of $869,675.30 from Brundidge-based S.A. Graham Company for grading and drainage.  

The complex’s base and pavement will be laid by Magnolia Springs-based Summit Industries LLC, who brought a low bid among three companies at $582,726.25. Councilman Kevin Boone, an employee of Summit, abstained from the vote.

Finally, the council approved a $73,401 bid for fencing from Pascagoula-based Gulf Coast Fence Company, which specializes in commercial, industrial and residential fencing. Gulf Coast Fence Company’s bid was the lowest of seven returned bids.

“We went through all the bids thoroughly and checked their references,” Preble-Rish engineer Andy Bobe said. “They are all properly licensed and come highly recommended.”

The city’s electrical department is expected to install lights for about $1 million, bringing the price tag for the complex to just under $3.5 million.

Community Affairs and Recreation Director Sherry Sullivan previously said the Fairhope Soccer League, who will use the fields, expects to chip in about $45,000 for bleachers, goals, concessions stands and restrooms. The league serves about 1,600 children aged 5 through 15 and currently holds league games at Founders Park behind Fairhope High School.

The soccer complex has been nearly six years in the making.

The council approved the purchase of the 38.5 acre lot at its Oct. 12, 2009, meeting, according to approved minutes. The city agreed to spend $877,012.73 on the land — previously owned by Manley Road LLC — for recreation upgrades.

The minutes also indicate the city paid for the purchase using four different city funds; $350,000 came from the Impact Fee fund, $250,000 from the Recreation Capital Improvement Fund, $239,489.08 from General Obligation Warrant proceeds and $37,523.65 from the Municipal Capital Improvement fund.

Records show the council approved the purchase with a 4-1 vote with former councilman Rick Kingrea providing the sole opposition.

In August 2014, the council rejected its only previous bid for the soccer complex when it came in at $5.1 million, two times as much as the council had budgeted. As a result, the council instructed Preble-Rish to redesign the plans and separate the bids to lower costs to no more than $3.5 million.

In a January work session, the council approved the plans that had been redesigned by Preble-Rish in December 2014.

In other council business, the city approved the installation of a pair of speed bumps to placate resident requests on Patlynn Drive.

Police Chief Joe Petties said the police department clocked numerous drivers at 45 or 49 miles per hour on the street, where the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour.

Patlynn Drive resident John Propp said he met with the mayor to encourage the traffic study. Later, he circulated a petition in the neighborhood ultimately resulting in the city council’s vote to install the speed bumps.

“There are three families that have young children under the age of nine … ” Propp said. “My concern is not only for them but for our senior adults who happen to be walking down the street. Coming through that curve the traffic goes way above the speed limit and it is hard to see because it is a blind corner. Somebody’s child is going to be out in the street and we are going to have a fatality.”

The council also delayed a vote on a proposal from the Fairhope Planning Commission to create a standalone sign ordinance that would extend the city’s signage rules beyond its city limits to its police jurisdiction. Councilman Rich Mueller expressed concern that citizens had not had time to make public comments on the issue, so the vote was held over until the council’s next meeting.

One-year-old splash pad to be demolished
The city’s renovated Fairhopers Community Park reopened to much fanfare in August, but after less than one year, part of the new park is being demolished this week.

At its April 13 meeting, the Fairhope City Council approved a $95,784.85 bid from J.A. Dawson and Co. to demolish and replace the splash pad, located on the corner of Morphy Avenue and Church Street. The new splash pad is designed by Jade Consulting and WAS Design with a pirate theme with water canons, crocodiles, a 19-foot mast with sails and water buckets.

City officials said that the existing 2,200-square-foot splash pad needed to be demolished because of poor construction and safety issues. The problems became apparent when the city discovered that contractor Advanced Recreation Concepts (ARC) of Melbourne, Florida, who built the splash pad last year, did not have a license to do the work in Alabama.

Council President Jack Burrell said the city withheld the $95,000 it owed to ARC and will instead spend it on the new splash pad.

The demolition and construction is expected to last about two months.