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With costs rising to approximately $2.1 million for planned elevated walking track alone, board tables decision until next meeting

As proponents of retaining an elevated walking track as part of renovations to the current building at the Chehalem Aquatic Center, all five directors on the Chehalem Park and Recreation District board got some bad news when they reconvened Aug. 31.

The group had left open its regularly scheduled monthly meeting a week prior so that staff could research the terms for potential loans of $4 million and $4.5 million (up from the originally proposed $3 million) while the project architect and general contractor collaborated to produce an estimate for the project that included the walking track.ARCHIETCURAL RENDERING COURTESY OF CPRD - Although work on the new Chehalem Park and Recreation District aquatic center on Haworth Avenue is moving along swiftly, some plans for renovations of the original pool are held up due to cost overruns.

Before the project was split into phases due to the escalating price of the new aquatic center, construction costs for the walking track were originally estimated at $705,000, according to Jennifer Marsicek of Scott Edwards Architecture (SEA). However, Gene and Nick Wellman of contractor Triplett Wellman reported at the latest meeting that the construction price tag had now risen to $1.7 million.

With soft costs, the price would come to approximately $2.1 million for the track alone and push the total cost of Phase II renovations up to approximately $5.25 million, which wasn't exactly a welcome development for the board.

"I'm just disappointed in the numbers," board member Don Loving said. "At our meeting last week we talked about $700,000 and we thought that might go up to a little over $1 million, but that number has even doubled and then some."

Even if the total estimate had fallen under $4.5 million or $4 million, the board was not completely comfortable with how much potential loans for those amounts would raise CPRD's annual debt payments. Superintendent Don Clements said at the meeting that the district now pays between $500,000 and $600,000 but that would jump, at its highest point in any one year, to approximately $875,000 for a $4 million loan and approximately $910,000 if it borrowed $4.5 million.

Because the preferred design for the elevated track involves making seismic upgrades to the facility and using those to support it, Gene Wellman and architect Sid Scott told the board there isn't a way to change that design to realize any significant savings.

"As much as I'd like to have this indoor walking track, it might not be feasible," Rierson said. "When you look at the cost of the whole project, I understand there is a lot of value that comes out of that and people will use it, but I don't know."

Unfortunately, Wellman and Scott also reported that while a potential alternate design, which would involve constructing a free-standing elevated track that is not connected to the structure of the building, could be less expensive, it does have drawbacks.

The first is that such a design would make the space underneath the elevated walking track unusable. The second is that because SEA has not yet drawn up detailed plans for such a design, the specialized steel supports likely needed would not be fabricated by the time Triplett Wellman would need them. In that case, Triplett Wellman would either have to sit idle while waiting for them or it would not be able to remain on site to start the gym renovation after it completes work on the new aquatic center, which Wellman currently estimates will take place near the end of February.

That seemingly left the board with one option, which would be to install a rubberized walking track around the basketball court at ground level.

That was the proposal, at a total cost of $3.2 million, the board had been considering at its Aug. 24 meeting before taking an extra week to explore the feasibility of retaining the elevated track.

With that in mind, director Don Ragsdale once again raised his concern of having the basketball court at the same level as the track.

"What happens to the user experience?" Ragsdale asked. "If you've got John Bridges and Don Loving out there playing out-of-control basketball at the same time some little old lady is going around the circuit, I want to know what that's about."

Scott said that to his knowledge, such configurations tend to use some sort of net or canopy system to separate the track from the court and parks supervisor Jim McMaster added that the issue could be addressed by programming the two activities in a way that they would not overlap.

Ultimately, Ragsdale asked Scott to research how other facilities with similar configurations have mitigated the problem.

"I want to know that somebody's successfully done it," Ragsdale said. "I want to know how to work it."

Scott and Wellman also told the board that in order to begin construction in late February or early March so the general contractor could work continuously, it would need the board to make a decision at is next meeting on Sept. 28.

In order to keep some options open, Clements said he would inquire with the district's financial consultant about how much extending the length of potential loans from 20 years to 25 or 30 might lower annual debt payments.

"I am much more pessimistic than I was, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel," Loving said. "I also think that it's not the end of the world if the new pool opens on time and we have to delay a little bit on the other building if we need to do that to examine some options."

Gene Wellman did note that if CPRD is unable to make a decision by Sept. 28, the renovation will still be an attractive project for contractors whenever the district does take it to market.

"It's not a $300,000 remodel," Wellman said. "It's getting up in the millions where you'll get a captive audience whether it be us or someone else."

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