NC: Fayetteville City Council Raises Questions About Bus Transfer Center

Aug. 03--Some members of the Fayetteville City Council are raising new questions about the funding and design of a bus transfer center in downtown that is now projected to cost $2 million more than initially planned.

Mayor Nat Robertson, who has always opposed the downtown site chosen by a prior council, said he would have voted to approve the financing until he learned this year the project could now cost nearly $12.2 million.

Robertson wants an update when the council holds a work session Monday at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

"But at this point, I want to see a presentation from staff and find out where the money is going to come from," Robertson said Thursday. "I think we owe it to the taxpayers and to find out if it's still feasible to do it."

Kristoff Bauer, a deputy city manager, said the city has been allocated a supplemental $1.7 million federal grant to help cover the higher cost. The grant is noncompetitive, he said.

The rest of the additional money needed -- $426,000 -- will come from the city's capital budget from revenue sources already programmed through 2016, Bauer said.

The city administration would like the council to award an $11.6million contract to the low bidder, Construction Systems Inc. of Fayetteville, to build the 22,238-square-foot transit center. A majority of the council appears to support approval of the bid, according to interviews last week.

A previous City Council chose the 2.5-acre site along Robeson and Franklin streets, a block from the Amtrak station. That factor helped the city obtain $9.7 million for construction from the Federal Transit Administration, which awards grants for "multimodal" projects.

Robertson and council members Jim Arp, Bill Crisp and Kathy Jensen are questioning the layout of the proposed building and 16-bay area for bus parking. They think it's backward to put the two-story building along the corner of Winslow and Franklin streets, and to have all the bus traffic use the wider Robeson Street.

"It's not turned right," Crisp said.

Arp said the city's Unified Development Ordinance requires new businesses to place parking and entranceways behind buildings, away from the main street. But the transit center design violates that rule, he said.

City Manager Ted Voorhees said the city staff already has reviewed those issues, explaining to the previous council a few years ago why the current design is favored.

Voorhees said the buses would be constrained using Winslow Street, because railroad tracks run down the middle.

Part of the property has contaminated soil. The current design leaves the soil undisturbed, covered with asphalt for bus parking. Rotating the building to face Robeson Street would require grading and disturbing the contaminated soil, the city said in a memo for Monday's meeting.

The prior council didn't authorize any changes to the plans after officials said in April 2013 that redesigning the site so late in the process would add $210,000 to the costs.

Council turnover

The mayor and four council members elected in November have never deliberated on this project. They are Jensen, Mitch Colvin, Larry Wright and Chalmers McDougald.

Ted Mohn and Crisp have voted in the past against the site selection and the city's use of eminent domain to take the property of J.P. Electric.

Last week, Crisp and Mohn said they wanted assurances the city would get the necessary additional federal money before they would agree to award the $11.6 million contract. Mohn also has questions about the local match spending.

Two other council members, Bobby Hurst and Kady-Ann Davy, want the project to move forward. So do McDougald and Wright.

"When it's all said and done, the city will have a really nice project that it can be proud of," Wright said Friday.

Jensen and Arp said they don't oppose building the transit center, despite their questions about its design.

The project's estimated cost has grown from $10 million in July 2012 to $12.15 million today for several reasons. An architect for the city underestimated the cost, and the price of some materials has escalated. The city also didn't initially include costs for contingency, construction management and special inspections.

Bauer said the city planned at first on spending $2 million from local taxes as a match for the largely federally funded project, but in the end will spend an estimated $1.4 million.

Staff writer Andrew Barksdale can be reached at barksdalea@fayobserver.com or 486-3565.

Copyright 2014 - The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

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