The Fairhope City Council voted unanimously Monday night to allow Mayor Tim Kant to instruct Preble-Rish LLC to redesign plans for a new soccer complex project with a total project cost not to exceed $3.5 million.
The move comes after the council, in August, rejected the only bid for the project at Manley Road and County Road 13. The summit bid came in at $5.4 million. At the time, Kant and the council expected to have the plans redrawn and the scope of work reduced.
The original plan was for 10 fields, but Kant said the reduced scope would most likely include a total of nine all-grass fields with two championship fields. The city budgeted $2 million last year for groundwork at the complex and another $1 million this year for lighting and fencing.
The city is also looking to Fairhope’s soccer league to raise money for restrooms and a concession stand, Kant said. Grant money might also be available, he said.
The project would tie into three spots on the existing roadway and wouldn’t require any roadwork, Kant said.
Once the plans are redrawn, Preble Rish can package parts of the work together for separate bids, Preble Rish Vice President John Avent said during a pre-council meeting Monday night. At the meeting, councilors also discussed hiring a construction manager for the project. Opinions were mixed on the subject, with some councilors and Kant leaning in favor of allowing the city to oversee the project, while others seemed to lean toward hiring an outside general contractor.
“I don’t see any sense in spending another $100,000 on it,” Councilman Mike Ford said. “It’s like the federal government adding layer upon layer.”
Councilman Richard Mueller said no matter who handles it, there should be someone in charge to oversee subcontractors.
“We can do it in-house, or pay someone to do it,” Mueller said. “if you’re going to have each one of those folks keep track of themselves, you’re going to have a nightmare.”
Under state law, if the project is bid out in smaller increments, a licensed general contractor or an agent of the city must oversee the work, building official Eric Cortinas said. Avent said the engineering firm didn’t have a licensed contractor on staff. Bids for work above $50,000 have to be handled by a licensed contractor, Avent said.
Kant said it’s likely the city will bid out the dirt work and paving first, which will be the highest priced bid. The city could then bid out the grasswork and fencing. Kant said city’s electric department could handle the lighting and irrigation.
Councilwoman Diana Brewer said she didn’t feel comfortable with the city overseeing the work and wanted to have more discussion on the issue before making a decision.
“I’m worried about scheduling and about a timeline,” she said.
Mueller said he didn’t object to someone “qualified” and “with experience” within the city acting as construction manager, but added that more discussion would be needed.
Kant reassured councilors that the city could manage the project.
“I have full faith we have enough talented people to do this,” he said.
Kant said the city hopes to put grass on the fields this summer and that the fields are ready for play in the fall.
Kant has previously said the fields would be large enough to host visiting tournaments, but that regional promotion wasn’t a priority.
The fields would be for the local league and players first, as there are roughly 1,600 children in the city league.
In other business, the council voted to allow Kant to draw up a lease between the city and 17 Turtles Gulf Coast Outfitters to use and perform construction improvements at the ice house building at Fly Creek Marina.
The organization serves as an outreach program for at-risk youth and veterans and would like to begin renting out canoes and kayaks at the location. They also hope to rent canoes and kayaks to the public. The organization would put $10,000 into the building and pay a nominal rent fee for a year, Elizabeth Tonsmeire of Tonsmeire Consulting said.
Once open, the public will be able to rent the boats for two hours, a half day, or full day, Tonsmeire said. Rentals will run $35 for a two-person canoe and $25 for a kayak.
The council also discussed putting in place restrictions for unsupervised minors at recreation facilities. Councilors agreed that a blanket rule should be put in place, but a sticking point was whether or not to include parks.
“No question about it, we’ve got to have it,” Ford said. “We have to pass it because the insurance company told us to.”
Brewer asked if the rule could only apply to facilities and not parks. Kant said an age limit would be appropriate for buildings, or facilities, but maybe not for parks. He said the issue should be discussed more.
Burrell asked City Clerk Lisa Hanks to craft a draft ordinance, but it seems the council is interested in a rule requiring supervising in city recreation centers for children 13 and under.
The next regular meeting of the Fairhope City Council will be on Thursday, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m.