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Contaminated soil raises Founder’s Park price tag

August 15th, 2013 9:25 pm by Gary B. Gray

Contaminated soil raises Founder’s Park price tag

The engineer on the Founder's Park project has found six times the amount of contaminated soil that needs to be removed than originally estimated. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)


Founder’s Park engineer Lamar Dunn and Associates informed commissioners Thursday there is six times more contaminated soil at the project site than originally anticipated, a finding that will jack up the overall price by about $185,000.


The original contract amount for the 5-acre project was nearly $2.7 million. The budget has been adjusted up to $2.8 million, and now it appears the revised cost will bring the number to nearly $2.9 million.


When the deal was inked, it was estimated that there was about 300 cubic yards of contaminated soil, but to date about 2,100 cubic yards have been removed. Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said contaminants
unearthed at various sites at Founder's Park include cleaning fluids and
petroleum — chemicals found long ago. TDEC requires 18 inches of fresh
soil cap these areas.

Thomas Construction, the contractor on the job, also has asked for a two-month extension due to poor weather conditions, which would push the estimated completion date to Nov. 30. The original estimated completion date was Aug. 10 — six days ago. 


The total adjustment in the contract price for soil removal only will be revised from $24,000 to $216,000, which reflects a total of 2,700 cubic yards of contaminated soil and a $192,000 increase. That line item also impacts the budget for environmental consultants, because their on-site presence must be continuous. That specific cost will now rise from $8,280 to $71,597, an increase of $63,317.


Pindzola, who called the contaminated soil issue “excessive,” said that to minimize the total project cost, commissioners should delete a $70,000 line item for box culvert repair that is not needed and “deplete the contingency amount in its entirety.”


“The staff does not disagree with this request,” he said. “In summary, since there will not be any remaining contingency, the revised contract amount is $2,878,909. Thus, the total revised project needs to be adjusted upward by $78,055.” 


A Contract Modification Form included in Thursday’s agenda packet shows the total “project budget adjustment” at $185,317. 


Pindzola said the additional expenses would be funded through the stormwater utility account.


In all, the increased costs tally more than $255,000. The net increase, after applying the money set aside to build the box culvert is just more than $185,000, and that will be paid for by emptying the contingency of more than $107,000 and dipping into the stormwater fund. The original contingency amount was $133,000.


The City Commission must approve changes to all contracts with the city.


Meanwhile, indoor soccer is returning to the 20,000-square-foot facility in Unicoi in October thanks to a unanimous decision by commissioners to go forward with a contract with Northeast Tennessee Sports Management LLC and Michael  F. Balluff.


Balluff will lease the complex and plans to have competitive soccer under way in the facility by that time. Commissioners did struggle at first with the ups and downs of the clause in the contract, which gives Balluff the option to purchase the facility during a three-year lease.


The lease payments are $1,000 per month from October through December 1, 2014; $2,000 per month for 2015; and $3,000 per month for 2016. Balluff would be responsible for all utilities, maintenance, repairs and improvements on the property during this time.


He also has the option during the lease to purchase the property at any time for $200,000. Should he not buy the property during the lease term, he would be obligated to pay the city an additional $50,000 for not exercising that option.


A lease-only deal was bounced around, but Balluff said he was ready to get going, and that if he put money into the complex he would be losing part of his investment if he could not retain the right to buy it.


“I’m looking to turn this into an asset,” he said. “I’ve got 80,000 square feet of Astro Turf sitting next to the Boys and Girls Club right now ready to go.”


He said he already has talked with East Tennessee State University, other nearby colleges and various community-oriented sports organizations about using the facility. He also said he ultimately wants to use the complex as a breeding ground for a minor league soccer team.


One shared concern among most commissioners was that the agreement would allow Balluff to pay one month’s rent and then purchase the property for $200,000. This would mean a net loss of $81,000 for the city, since an appraisal last year put the value of the complex at $285,000. But in the end, having the facility open for use by the community, and with Balluff agreeing to make improvements such as a new HVAC unit, commissioners decided it was the best option.

Editor's Note: This article has been amended to specify the nature of the soil contaminants.

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