Woodward, Okla. —
Woodward County Commissioners learned Monday that with current design plans, the Fairgrounds Improvement Project is estimated to cost a little over $12.4 million.
Of that total estimate, around $8.4 million is expected toward constructing a new multi-purpose arena and office complex; $2.2 million will go toward renovating existing facilities; and the other almost $1.8 million will go toward miscellaneous fees, equipment, and relocation costs.
SURPRISING COST INCREASE
Commissioners said this latest estimate from the project architecture firm Architects in Partnership (AIP) was $2 million more than a $10.4 million projection that was presented to the board in October.
Commission Chair Tommy Roedell said that some of the increase was expected after recent design changes that were requested by both the commissioners and the Woodward County Fair Board.
Original design plans had called for the removal of the center fair barn, to allow for an open area for washing animals for livestock shows, with only a partial roof over 2 walkways. However, after concerns were raised about exposure to the elements, the design was modified to place a roof over the entire area between the 1st and 3rd fair barns.
According to cost breakdowns provided by AIP, the new covered pavilion area between the 2 fair barns resulted in an approximate $300,000 increase in renovation expenses, between an additional $253,000 in roofing costs and $47,000 for concrete.
"Since we added the roof between the 2 barns, we expected that part to go up," Roedell said. "But we don't know why the construction cost for the new facility has gone up so much, especially when we reduced the square footage."
Roedell was referring to how the size of the new multipurpose arena facility was modified to enable the construction of a clear-span exhibition space.
The multipurpose facility was originally designed to encompass 75,000 square feet and allow for an indoor arena measuring 400 feet by 175 feet. But at that width, columns would have been required inside the arena area, thus placing some limits on how the space could be used. So the building was reduced in size to only 140 feet wide, dropping the overall building size to 61,600 square feet, but allowing for the arena area to remain open and unobstructed.
Somehow this change resulted in an $460,000 increase in roofing costs for the multipurpose and office facility.
"I just wonder what changed the cost of the roofing so much?" Roedell said.
He wasn't alone in his concerns over the price jump.
"Like Tommy, I find it hard to believe there is nearly $2 million difference between the new estimate and the old one," District No. 3 Commissioner Vernie Matt said.
However, project architect Heath Hans, a principal architect with AIP, was unable to attend Monday's meeting to answer the commissioners' questions. But Hans is expected to be on hand at the next county commission meeting on Dec. 9 to address their concerns.
PROPOSING A PROPOSED HALF-CENT SALES TAX
Although concerned about the increase in the projected price, the commissioners were comforted that, even at $12.4 million, financial advisors believe the project could be covered by only a half-cent sales tax increase.
Matthew Reichert, vice president the Norman-based financial services firm of Stephen H. McDonald & Associates, Inc., said that based on the $12.4 million estimate, a half-cent sales tax increase could pay for the fairgrounds project within 13 years.
Reichert said that 13 years was being "very conservative" and noted that "you could get it paid off, assuming you continue to collect what you're collecting now, in slightly under 11 years." He noted that was based on a 10-year historical review of sales tax collections in the county, "and largely weighted on what you've done in the last 3 years and then using those to push out for the next 11 to 13 years."
Once the bonds for the construction project are repaid, he said, "the half-cent drops to just a tenth of a cent." This ongoing tenth of a cent tax would be used to generate revenue, at around $250,000 a year, to pay for maintenance of the new fairgrounds complex, he said.
Reichert said he will present the commission with a resolution outlining the specifics of the sales-tax increase at their next meeting in order to meet the Dec. 13 deadline to have the matter included on a Feb. 12, 2013 election ballot.
However, he spoke with commissioners this week to establish whether they were comfortable with setting the $12.4 million price estimate "as a ceiling" since he needed to be able to include an upper cost limit in the election resolution.
While noting that "we still have questions we need to ask the architect" about the cots, the county commissioners all said they believed it was "fair" to include the $12.4 million figure in the election resolution as the maximum price for the project.
"What's important is to finance what the actual cost will be because we don't want to have to try and come up with extra money later or cut back on what we thought the project would be," Roedell said.
Roedell also told The News that he was "pleased that he (Reichert) thought a half-cent would cover the project. That's the figure that we've heard tossed around and what we thought would be adequate."
Reichert also sought to comfort the commissioners even more by saying that even with a half-cent sales tax increase "you won't be pricing yourselves out of the region."
Woodward County's current sales tax is set at 0.825 cents, which would increase to 1.325 cents if the half-cent increase is passed by voters, Reichert said.
However, he said that several area counties have higher sales taxes, charging the maximum 2 cent sales tax, including Alfalfa, Beaver, Ellis and Harper counties. A few counties have lower rates, including Woods County at . 5 cents and Major County at .25 cents. At a 1-cent rate, Texas County has the closest sales tax rate to Woodward County.
The $12,414,087 cost estimate from project architect firm Architects in Partnership (AIP) is broken down as follows:
• Construction costs (TOTAL: $10,631,687):
- New Multi-Purpose Arena & OSU Extension and DA's Offices = $8,407,459 (including approximately $1.77 million for contingency, insurance, bond, construction management and other misc. fees)
- Renovations/Updates to existing facilities (not including demolition costs) = $2,224,228 (including around $473,000 for contingency, insurance, bond, construction management and other misc. fees)
• Miscellaneous fees, equipment, relocation costs (TOTAL: $1,782,400):
- Architect/Engineering fees (6% of construction costs) = $637,900
- Project fees (permits, surveying, testing) = $37,500
- Relocation costs: temporary facilities for OSU Extension Office = $12,000; lump sum to move Soil Conservation Office = $250,000
- Furniture, fixtures and equipment (bleachers, panels, wash-down, tables, chairs, carts, portable stage, rigging equipment, office furniture etc) = $640,000
- Kitchen/catering equipment = $130,000
- Demolition assistance (dumpster, site provisions) = $10,000
- Wayfinding signage (including monument sign) = $25,000
- Any new maintenance equipment required (i.e. scissor lift or lawn equipment) = $40,000