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Berger, Thomas throw support behind sports park

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Council unanimously approves another round of construction packages

By Marty Finley

mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com
The honeymoon period ended as soon it started Monday for the new Elizabethtown City Council.
The council this week resumed its work on the Elizabethtown Sports Park, approving the latest round of bid packages in a mammoth series received in early December as part of phase five. Planning Director Ed Poppe said the phase houses about 30 packages.
In all, the council approved roughly $3.5 million in new work, including a $2.1 million package awarded to Charles DeWeese Construction for general trades. It will include everything from wood decking and building insulation to carpet and painting.
As an added stipulation, Mayor Tim Walker can authorize change orders up to $315,000 on the package.
The council that approved the bids looked slightly different with the return of Edna Berger and Tony Bishop, and the mood toward the park has changed somewhat with all of the bids approved unanimously.
Prior construction faced opposition from former Councilman Steve Atcher and returning Councilman Ron Thomas.
Thomas on Tuesday said he expects some were perplexed by his decision on Monday. But he said it is time to move on, cast off negativity and ensure the park operates efficiently and is financially successful once it is completed.
“I think it would be sour grapes on my part to vote no, no, no,” Thomas said.
At every turn, Thomas has told the council he supported the concept of a sports park but he could not approve of the debt burden. Last year, he told the council the cost of the park exceeds some cities’ annual budgets.
Those feelings have not lessened, Thomas maintained, but he said he does not have the votes to reduce the spending and feels voting no again would accomplish little.
However, Thomas promised he would challenge any bids he felt were unreasonable and would call for the rebidding process should it be needed.
Berger agreed and said she discussed a strategy with Thomas because now are the only two on the council in favor of a more fiscally conservative park.
Berger and Thomas finished with the most votes in the race for city council, but Berger said she was confused by the results because it appears they were not voted for because of their stance on the sports park. Had this been the reason, she added, voters would have chosen other candidates with like-minded stances to aid them in lowering the cost.
“It’s not that we feel different, but when you’re beat, you’re beat,” Berger said.
Berger said the focus now is to support the park so it can become profitable and pay for itself. Otherwise, the city will be saddled with a quality-of-life facility that could drain resources and cut into the city’s vital services.
Atcher, who attended Monday’s meeting, said he still opposes the restaurant tax that preceded the park, but hopes the park exceeds the city’s wildest financial expectations for the sake of its residents.
“I think everyone (now realizes) there is going to be a sports park,” Atcher said. “That die has been cast.”
Jeff Robards Construction, the Bullitt County company handling earthwork on the park’s site, was awarded a combined package for landscaping and wetland construction at $649,414. Change orders up to $97,412.10 were authorized on the packages.
Construction work for chain link fences and gates was awarded to Professional Fence Co. for $780,000, with a change order limit up to $117,000 included.
Poppe said another 15 to 20 packages are being evaluated in phase five and some likely will be rebid. Phase five contains the bulk of remaining construction, but Poppe said he expects an additional phase to remain, which mainly will constitute work on the park’s trail system.
Since construction began, 21 packages have been approved by the council at a total of about $14.5 million. The city has set a cap on spending for the park at $29 million and has designated the 2 percent restaurant tax as the financial source to pay for bonds that will be released in three separate series.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.