Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pavilion pushed back

Completion date now seen in mid-November for 1,200-seat facility By Tiffeny Owens- The Decatur Daily A completion date for the $3 million publicly financed Ingalls Harbor pavilion under construction on Alabama 20 has been pushed back for the second time. City officials expected the 25,000-square-foot facility — billed to be the largest meeting space in the River City — to be finished by Oct. 20. But merging three different building materials took more time and retrofitting than the builder anticipated. Other hiccups have slowed progress. First, workers discovered unsuitable soil at the construction site that had to be dug up, removed and replaced. Then, a wet spring stalled work for a few weeks. And when summer arrived, the searing heat made roofing an agonizing task. Workers had been nailing down the roof at night when temperatures are cooler. The roof should be finished within three weeks, said Jack Fite, president of Decatur's Fite Building Co. The 1,200-seat open-air pavilion, situated beside the Tennessee River roughly a mile west of the bridge into downtown, has to be ready by Nov. 27. That's when Decatur will host the NAIA women's soccer tournament. The event is the city's opportunity to unveil the facility, complete with its salvaged timber from the downtown Robinson building, to out-of-state teams and their families. "We will be done by mid-November, before the tournament gets in town," Fite said. "It's been challenging at times, but it will be one of the most unique projects I've worked on." The pavilion's original completion date was September. But then it was pushed back to late October, and now to November. At a meeting last week, District 2 Councilman Roger Anders said he wants the city to "hold Fite's feet to the fire," suggesting the contractor pay the city liquidated damages agreed to in the contract for missing the previous deadlines. The city and Fite having been going over how many work days were lost, said Tom Chappell, assistant director of Decatur's parks and recreation department. "In their defense, Fite had a lot of issues come up over the course of the project," Chappell said. One problem that consumed a lot of time came from the salvaged Robinson building wood. Workers had to remove nails and other metal pieces embedded in the timber before it could be used on the job, Fite said. "Then we had to marry three different building surfaces together into one structure," he said. "We had to modify some things to make it all fit together." Last month, the City Council approved nearly $40,000 in change orders, all covered by a $250,000 contingency for unforeseen expenses. When officials first proposed the project, it had a $2.8 million price tag. The city still hopes the facility, with its stone fireplaces, projector screens and 700-table capacity, will attract more local and out-of-town visitors. The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau thinks the facility will hook more bass tournaments, which bring hundreds of out-of-town visitors and generates lodging revenue for the city, along with conferences, banquets and receptions for local and regional organizations. Individuals will be able to rent the facility, too. "We're anticipating to collect $25,000 in rental fees in the first year," said Tami Reist, Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau president. That money will roll over into the city's Parks and Recreation Department general fund to offset the costs of the building's upkeep. The department also will coordinate with the tourism bureau for bookings. Decatur borrowed $2 million from its reserves and $1.6 million from the Morgan County Commission's Regional Landfill fund to finance the project. The Hospitality Association will repay the loans over 15 years using revenue from its $2-per-night tax on local hotel stays.

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