UPDATED: Council to consider using city reserves to cover parking deck deficit

An early rendering shows what preliminary designs predict the new parking deck could look like at the corner of Spring Street and School Avenue.

Courtesy, City of Fayetteville

Update: Aldermen agreed to use city reserves to fund the deck. This story first reported a need for up to $2.4 million in reserves, but the city’s design team identified more savings to bring the total amount needed downs to $2,160,758.

Now that construction estimates for the Spring Street Parking Deck have grown several million dollars over budget, it’s time to decide what to do.

Fayetteville aldermen are set to consider using about $2.1 million in general fund reserves to cover a funding gap needed to build the three-story municipal parking deck planned at the northwest corner of Spring Street and School Avenue.

Budget issues first emerged in April when an increase in concrete materials and labor costs helped contribute to a nearly $2 million overage. Design changes helped lower costs by about $800,000, but the gap swelled again to around $5.3 million after initial bids were opened in late August.

Aldermen authorized a $6.2 million bond package in November 2011 to be used for the project, but Mayor Lioneld Jordan waited until after the 2012 mayoral election to issue the bonds after the deck became a key issue in former Mayor Dan Coody’s campaign to replace Jordan that year.

City officials said inflation and a rebounding economy could be at play in determining why the cost has skyrocketed since initial estimates were made in 2011.

Jeremy Pate, Development Services director, said the city was competing with several larger projects when requesting bids for the deck, including a 10-story building in Rogers and a new high school in Bentonville. Those projects, Pate said, may have been more attractive to regional contractors than a 246-space parking deck in Fayetteville.

“We’re simply a growing area with limited resources that’s coming out of a recession,” said Pate. “Firms simply aren’t as hungry as they were a year ago.”

Since August, the city’s design team has identified about $1.6 million that can be saved by changing some construction techniques and minor specifications. Pate said some jobs can be brought in-house to the city or the construction manager, including concrete pouring, trench digging and conduit placement.

The city is expected to use $1.5 million that the Walton Arts Center returned as part of its governance change agreement. That leaves about $2.1 million needed to build the deck.

Jordan said city reserves have grown from $2.3 million when he first took office to a little over $5 million today. That’s on top of the $6 million that must be kept in the bank to cover two months of city operating expenses in case of an emergency.

With the deadline approaching to lock in construction costs, a decision must be made whether to abandon the project or keep spending.

City officials don’t want to walk away from the deck project.

Mayor Jordan has said he’d like to see at least a portion of the current Walton Arts Center parking lot be redeveloped at the corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue. If that happens, the city would lose parking spaces and without a replacement deck, it’s unclear where patrons – particular those visiting the Walton Arts Center – would park.

The City Council will discuss the issue during the Tuesday, Oct. 7 meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. inside City Hall room 219.

If aldermen agree to move forward, work on the deck – which was put on hold in late August – could resume by the end of the month.