Thursday, July 28, 2011

Firm asks for $38K more for pavilion

By Tiffeny Owens Staff Writer at The Decatur Daily

The Decatur architectural firm that designed the Ingalls Harbor pavilion is asking the city for an additional $38,000 to complete the project.

The removal of unsuitable dirt at the work site cost an extra $26,402 alone. The Decatur City Council will vote Monday on three change orders, submitted by Godwin, Barnett, Woods, P.C. of Decatur, to amend its contract with the firm, which would increase the pavilion’s budget by $37,867.

The new costs would be covered by the $250,000 contingency for unforeseen expenses that the city included in the contract with GBW and contractor Fite Building Co.

“We went ahead and filed these change orders for the council to review now, instead of at the end of the project,” said Tom Chappell, assistant director of Decatur’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Overseeing upkeep
The department will oversee the pavilion’s maintenance and upkeep. The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau plans to hold weigh-ins inside the structure for bass tournaments at Ingalls Harbor and also market it for large events. The facility will host the 27th annual Gala fundraiser for the Decatur General Hospital Foundation in December. The facility will also be available for rent to host parties, banquets and receptions.

Once completed, the $3 million, 27,000-square-foot, open-air pavilion will be more than twice the size of Decatur’s largest meeting space.

Workers were finishing the roof this week, and stonework on the fireplaces, columns and around the foundation is nearly done, Chappell said. The project is still on track for opening Oct. 21, he said.

Change orders
The change orders included features that have been re-configured to save money and others that have incurred additional costs. The biggest money-saver was the elimination of Decatur Utilities’ construction help, which totaled $25,902, according to the change order documents. But the removal of 2,182 cubic yards of dirt — at $12.10 per cubic yard — for the south parking lot was the biggest expense, the documents show. In all, contractors had to remove 4,086 cubic yards of unsuitable dirt over the project’s bid, which provided payment for just 1,500 cubic yards.

“You really don’t know how much soil is unsuitable until you get in there and start digging,” said Chappell. “You’ve got to get down to the compact red clay so you don’t have settling problems with the foundation.”

Dirt for project
Decatur’s Waters Brothers Contractors Inc. used some of the dirt for projects while the rest was hauled to the Morgan County Regional Landfill and used as ground cover.

The city is financing the pavilion by borrowing $2 million from its reserves and another $1.6 million from landfill fund.

Other costs
Other additional costs included:

■$9,544 to convert a large men’s toilet to a small men’s toilet and family toilet and additional fire alarm and electrical changes required by the city’s building department.
■$6,951 to add emergency voice/alarm communication, or EVAC, capability to the fire alarm system.
■$1,540 to add three gas log starters to each fireplace.
■$880 to remove existing railroad tracks from the northeast portion of the site.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Convention center not feasible for Decatur, consultants find

By Deangelo McDaniel Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

A Georgia-based consulting firm recommended that Decatur suspend its pursuit of a hotel/conference center.

In a feasibility study, Jill Bidwell of PKF Consulting said the “current market conditions do not appear to be supportive” of this type of facility in the River City.

“To be honest, I was surprised, but at least we know where we are at,” said Tami Reist of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce’s Balanced Economy Committee commissioned the $15,000 study.

Jim Page, vice president of public policy and business development for the chamber, said the group was looking for ways to diversify Decatur’s economy, which is heavily dependent on industry.

Trying to lure a convention center to the River City was the committee’s priority, Page said.

The study, however, cited several reasons why a convention center is likely not a good fit for Decatur at this time.

The report said Decatur’s occupancy rate for its existing hotels was in the upper 40 to mid 50 percentile, with an average daily rate of between $75 and $79.

PKF visited hotels in Florence, Huntsville and Franklin, Tenn., where the average daily rate was in the low $100 range.

“This most likely would not support their (the hotel/conference center’s) development cost if built today,” Bidwell wrote.

She said only 18 percent of the associations surveyed said they would be “likely or very likely to use an appropriately-sized convention center and full-service” hotel in Decatur.

Most of the associations also said they preferred having their meetings in beach locations.

PKF evaluated three sites for a possible convention center. They included downtown near the Holiday Inn, river property in Point Mallard Park adjacent to the golf course and the proposed Sweetwater mixed-use development near Interstate 65 and Alabama 20.

“It is evident that the optimum site for any such facility would be as part of the Sweetwater development,” Bidwell wrote.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ingalls pavilion more than halfway built

Project manager: Completion expected by Oct. 20
By Ronnie Thomas Staff Writer at The Decatur Daily

Daily photo by Brennen SmithConstruction is under way on the pavilion at Ingalls Harbor. The project should be completed by Oct. 20, the project’s manager said.

Decatur’s multi-purpose pavilion at Ingalls Harbor is about 60 percent complete and should be finished by Oct. 20, the project’s manager said last week.

“It’s a pretty complicated building with different kinds of structural elements going in, pre-engineered structural steel and wood framing,” said Marty Blackwood of Fite Building Co., the project manager. “We had some weather delays, but we’re looking at the fall completion.”

That’s good news to Tom Chappell, assistant director of the Decatur Parks and Recreation Department, and Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Parks and Recreation Department will oversee the pavilion’s maintenance and upkeep, and, in close conjunction with Reist’s group, the booking of events. Major attractions await.

For example, Chappell said Decatur has a year remaining on its contract for the NAIA soccer championships at the Jack Allen Recreation Complex.

“We’re hoping to host the opening ceremonies at the pavilion in November,” Chappell said. “But we’re planning for an alternate site just in case everything isn’t ready.”

Reist said the Decatur General Hospital Foundation will utilize the 27,000-square foot pavilion for its 27th annual gala fundraiser in December.

On the horizon, she said, is the Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association National Conference, which the Decatur Police Department will host. The group is planning a barbecue at the pavilion April 24.

Blackwood described the massive fireplaces with their 52-foot tall chimneys at each end of the 1,200-seat pavilion as “pretty monumental” in gauging progress.

“They’re basically complete and a good milestone on the project,” he said.

Aderholt Masonry of Russellville built the tapered-chimney fireplaces with Alabama brownstone from a quarry in Oneonta. The wood-burning fireplaces, which will have gas starters, are 10 feet long and eight feet wide at the base.

“We lack setting the caps on top, building the hearths and putting the fire brick on the inside,” said Ray Aderholt, owner of the company. “We’re finalizing them now.”

The fireplace facing west toward a 58-by-80 patio consists of interior and exterior hearths.

“We’ve already started the rest of the stonework on the building, which includes an entrance way that is 7 feet, 4 inches tall,” Aderholt said. “We’ve also started the interior columns and have done some work on the perimeter, which will consist of a 1-foot, 4-inch tall wall. The last thing we’ll do is the patio.”

Fite’s Tom Glenn, superintendent on the project, said the only real wood used in the pavilion is the timber framing and decking on the front and back porches.

Workers reclaimed the timber during the demolition of the more than century-old Bailey-Robinson Building.

“The back porch is pretty much finished, and we’re erecting the timber columns and beams on the front porch,” Glenn said Friday.

He said workers have completed covering half the roof of the pavilion with steel decking.

“The walls on three sides will be composed of garage-type, overhead roll-up doors,” Glenn said. “The back side is made of hardy board siding.”

Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said the pavilion will be a good tourist draw “just like the regional bass tournaments out there” at Wheeler Lake. “Next year, they’ll have a place to hold a reception.”

On Jan. 25, the commission approved the city of Decatur borrowing $1.6 million toward pavilion construction from the Regional Landfill reserve fund. Site work began the next day.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pickwick Belle plans trial runs from Decatur

Riverboat testing interest as relocation contemplated
By Jason Lankford Staff Writer The Decatur Daily

The Pickwick Belle riverboat will cruise out of Ingalls Harbor in Decatur from Aug. 13 to Sept. 10 as part of a trial run to see if there’s enough interest to permanently relocate from Florence.

Tanya Irwin, marketing director for the Pickwick Belle, said there is not a specific revenue goal that must be reached during the trial period.

“We feel that the Pickwick Belle, with the right kind of marketing and support, could have a much more successful business than what she’s had,” Irwin said. “We are pleased with the contact we have had with the (Decatur-Morgan County) Convention and Visitors Bureau, and we are glad we found people who are enthusiastic and will help us with marketing.”

Ingalls chosen
Tami Reist, president of the CVB, said Ingalls Harbor was chosen as the Decatur base over Riverwalk Marina and Rhodes Ferry Park because it has a good docking area for disembarking passengers and ample parking.

There are still some issues to be resolved, including the lack of a power supply at the harbor, Irwin said. The boat also will be less visible at Ingalls, off Alabama 20, than it would be at the other two locations near the U.S. 31 causeway.

The majority of Pickwick Belle cruises are booked by private groups, many of them motor-coach groups from outside the area, Irwin said. There already have been several advance bookings for the trial period.

Reist said the route the boat will travel has yet to be determined, but the plan is to showcase the area’s fishing locations as well as the industrialized areas of the riverfront.

The boat is about 90 feet long and 30 feet wide and is a true paddle wheeler. It has two decks, an open-air top deck, an enclosed lower deck and can accommodate 149 passengers. It ideally seats about 80 for dinner cruises.

Many uses
Irwin said the Pickwick Belle’s size makes it versatile for a wide range of affordable uses, including high school proms, wedding rehearsals and weddings, praise and worship services, school groups and educational cruises. The boat uses local caterers for meals and local theatrical ensembles for theme cruises.

During the four years the Pickwick Belle has been docked at Florence Harbor, no audio tours have been provided, but Reist is making plans to have a tour guide onboard to inform passengers about the history of Decatur and local attractions they can visit.

Director of Florence/Lauderdale Tourism Debbie Wilson said Florence would hate to lose the Pickwick Belle because of its aesthetic appeal, but the relocation of the boat is not likely to impact the area’s economy, mainly because the boat doesn’t bring in enough people to significantly increase hotel bookings.

“We certainly have no hard feelings toward Decatur,” Wilson said. “If they choose to dock in Decatur, we certainly understand, but I would hope that there could be a best-case scenario where they could logistically figure out how to share (the boat between the cities).”

Irwin said there are no issues pushing the boat from Florence; operators just want to explore how well the boat could do in another area.

Pickwick Belle
Dimensions: 90 feet long and 20 feet wide

Speed: It generally moves at 5 to 6 mph. Cruises, which are generally 10 to 12 miles round trip, last about two hours.

Seating: 149 people for normal cruises and about 80 for dinner cruises.

Cost: Rates in Decatur will range from $9.99 to $49.99 per person.

Crew: 2 captains, a hospitality director, 3 sailors, 2 chefs and 3 attendants.

Owner: Fred Tull, president of Tull Brothers Inc., a building materials contractor based in Corinth, Miss.

Schedule: Check the calendar at

Sightseeing cruises
■3-4:30 p.m. Aug. 13, Aug. 19, Aug. 20, Aug. 26, Aug. 27, Sept. 2, Sept. 3
■9:30-11 a.m. and 2-3:30 p.m. Sept. 8
■7-9 p.m. Aug. 13, Jimmy Buffet Dinner Cruise
■11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Aug. 19, Lazy Days Lunch Cruise
■7-9 p.m. Aug. 20, Dinner with the King dinner cruise
■1-3 p.m. Aug. 21, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 3, noon-2 p.m. Sept. 10, summer lunch cruises
■11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Aug. 26, Fun & Games lunch cruise
■7-9 p.m. Sept. 3, Civil War dinner cruise
Group rates are available. Concessions are offered on board. For more information, call 877-936-2355.