County moves ahead on Wellness and Recreation Center

Published 9:11 am Friday, June 21, 2024

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The Harlan County Fiscal Court took a step forward toward a long-proposed Wellness and Recreation Center, approving the purchase of the former Belk building at Village Center to house the facility.
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley called on a representative of Summit Engineering to advise the magistrates on some specifics and projected expense of the project.
“We’re joined today by Scott Noel, who is our architect on this project,” Mosley said.
Noel provided an overview of the project.
“Looking at the actual facility in Village Mall, we’re seeing what we can do with that existing building,” Noel said. “We had done an estimate back in February, and the big thing to realize is what is standing there in today’s market would be about $180 a square foot. By the time you add that in plus renovations, that gets you up there to about what the cost would be.”
According to Noel, the building has many amenities already built into the structure.
“There’s plenty of power,” Noel said. “It’s got an all-good structure. The biggest change in the structure that we’re recommending is only for the height of the basketball courts, is to raise that one section of the roof. So, by doing that, that’s going to be a little bit of construction cost.”
Noel explained the rest of the expense will be remodeling the inside of the building to support a wellness and recreation center.
“Based off the size of this building…the operation costs for a building this size will run about $580,000 to $600,000 a year,” Noel said. “Based off the funds received and naming rights and things like that which will be available, you’re looking at about $180,000 offset…the actual cost should run the county a little over $180,000 to $200,000 a year.”
Noel informed the magistrates the estimated total cost to get the facility up and running would be approximately $12.7 million.
Mosley mentioned the current cost to build a new facility from the ground up would be approximately $25 million.
“This by far is the most feasible option,” Mosley said.
Magistrate Paul Browning inquired about the cost of roof modifications.
“The cost that you have in front of us…is there some flexibility in there?” Browning asked. “Does that price have a specific roof in mind?”
Noel pointed out the roof would be a steel structure. He noted they would prioritize amenities to stay within budget constraints.
“We have a 5 percent contingency built into that construction budget,” Noel said. “Hopefully, we don’t have to use it, but at least it needs to be budgeted so that it’s there if needed.”
Magistrate James Howard asked about the accuracy of past estimates, including a project which had come in at 15 percent more than expected. Noel explained this had happened while construction costs were rising dramatically.
“The 15 percent project was one when everybody was saying construction costs would never hit $500 a square foot, we were projecting in mid $400s, that project is our worse scenario,” Noel said. “We had a project in western Kentucky two weeks ago that was 30 percent below what we projected…we bid what we thought was going to be a $100 million high school project in Cynthiana, and it came in at $88 million. It came in at $390 a square foot.”
Noel said construction costs are currently trending down.
“15 percent is the highest we’ve had one to go over, that was crazy times,” Noel said. “Our goal is to make sure we hit this budget.”
Following further discussion, Mosley asked for a motion to acquire the property.
“The price of the facility was priced at $2 million; the appraisal came…it appraised at $2 million,” Mosley said. “Now that we have the appraisal back, is there a desire to go ahead with the acquisition?”
Magistrate Jim Roddy made a motion to acquire by general warranty deed the building and lot at 188 Village Center Drive, known as the former Belk building and parking lot for $2 million from Village Center LLC for the Harlan County Wellness and Recreation Center pending the completion of a title opinion and survey.
Magistrate Paul Caldwell seconded the motion. The motion passed with no objections.

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