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County Board Approves Aquatic Center with 4-1 Vote

The Arlington County Board voted 4-1 last night "in support of a design of the planned Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center, a $54.7 million project that will be the centerpiece project in Crystal City.," according to the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey today.

McCaffrey went on to report:

"A panel comprised largely of county-government staff settled on a bid by Coakley & Williams Construction, one of four finalists for the long-stalled and downsized project. Approval by the County Board was a largely pro-forma affair.

"Construction is slated to start in the middle of next year, with the facility open by 2021.

"Ratification by the County Board of the staff proposal had been expected; John Vihstadt, who cast the lone nay vote, cited concerns about costs and other pressing needs.

"While there may have been a time when we could have afforded this project with relative ease, this is no longer the case,” he said. (emphasis added)

"The four finalists were announced in October, and in a break from past tradition, there has not been a lengthy, public process to whittle down the options. Using a “design-build” process – new to the Arlington government – will minimize risks to taxpayers by putting responsibility for cost overruns on the shoulders of the designer and builder.

"Construction of the aquatics center and fitness facility will complete a major component of the 30-acre Long Bridge Park, located in the northern end of Crystal City.

"Several phases already have been completed, but the pool facility was put on ice in 2014 over concerns about construction costs – which topped $80 million under design  then proposed – and questions over operating costs.

"In 2016, the project was resuscitated, but with downsized expectations.

"The $54.7 million project will include not just the aquatics/fitness center, but also an extension of the Long Bridge Park’s esplanade, rain gardens, public art and parking."

The county spinmeisters produced a brief press release, which is primarily useful for its links to locating related information

Two County Manager reports to the Board relate to this project. The first was Agenda Item 51.A. involved :award of a contract for the aquatics & fitness center, which responded to RFP 17-304-RFP for $54.7 million and an "allocation" of $5.3 million "as a County -held contingency." There was also Agenda Item 51.B. involving $780,000 for "the design, fabrication and installation of public art," which as part of Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park.

Arlington County taxpayers will find a portion of the #51.A. report's fiscal impact statement of special interest, specifically (DPR = Department of Parks & Recreation):

"Currently, DPR estimates building operating costs to be $4,256,000 for the first full year of operations in FY 2021 dollars. Revenue generated from programming is expected to be up to $3,129,000 in the first full year resulting in net tax support of $1,127,000, both in FY 2021 dollars; however, a ramp-up period is possible for the few years of facility operations where revenue potential may not be fully realized which will result in higher net tax support for the initial operating years of the facility. These estimates are based on a 72,000 sf. model that has been presented to DPR through the Design-Build Consultant, Hughes Group Architects. This model includes a 50M pool, leisure pool, fitness elements, and other building amenities that were estimated to fit within the total project budget using a Design-Build delivery method. The four respondents to the Long Bridge RFP all proposed models that are larger than the original 72,000 sf; in particular, the Coakley proposal adds approximately 20,000 square feet (which could be modified slightly as detailed design proceeds). The proposed scheme remains within the total project costs in the CIP, but will result in incrementally higher operating costs due to the additional square footage. The additional square footage will also result in more programming opportunities, providing more options to help offset operating costs. In addition to operating costs of the Aquatic & Fitness Center, an additional $588,000 in FY 2021 dollars will be necessary to maintain the 10.5 acres of newly developed park land. Once a contract has been awarded, DPR will adjust operating estimates to reflect the size, scope, and amenities included in both the final building design and outdoor features."

We growled about this vanity project last week, here.

Chris Teale of the online news site, ARLnow.com has additional views today, including John Vihstadt's full statement.

Growls readers concerned about the fiscal soundness of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center are encouraged to engage the Arlington County Board. Take a couple of minutes to make your views known to the Arlington County Board. Remember, construction doesn't start until next summer. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you. And kudo to Board member John Vihstadt for his fiscally responsible vote.

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