Aug. 10--Last week, Mayor Nat Robertson criticized the proposed $12.15million bus transfer station downtown as being too costly.
At a work session, Robertson said the project would cost $546 per square foot, which he said was way out of line with anything downtown or recently built schools.
Robertson later told The Fayetteville Observer he wanted to know why the building would cost so much and how much taxpayers would have to spend each year to maintain and secure it after it's built. He said he wanted those answers before the City Council decides Monday to vote on awarding a construction contract for the two-story project at Winslow and Franklin streets.
It turns out, a city official badly understated the size of the planned transit building.
Randy Hume, director of the Fayetteville Area System of Transit, informed Robertson and the rest of the council in a letter Thursday that he had miscalculated, adding up only the occupied spaces of the new building in his early tally of 22,238 square feet.
But after conferring with the architect for the project, Hume realized he'd left out other areas, such as stairwells, cooling towers and elevators, that bring the building's total size to 34,064 square feet.
Further, Hume said, $3.1 million of the $11.6 million low bid would be used to construct the bus bays, driveways, canopies, walkways, a utility building and exterior passenger waiting areas -- site costs not traditionally included in per-square-foot calculations.
After those considerations and revised figures, Hume said, the transit center building would cost $250 per square foot.
By comparison, Hume said, the most recently built city fire station on Andrews Road was bid in 2009 and cost $180 per square foot; today, it would cost between $225 and $240, Hume wrote in his letter.
The recently opened expansion to the Cumberland County Detention Center cost $213 per square foot, excluding design and architect fees, a county official said.
Hume said the city has been projecting for the past three years the new transit center, which would replace a bus transfer stop on Old Wilmington Road, would cost the city $210,000 annually to operate and secure. A combination of federal, state and local sources, plus increased bus fares, can be used to pay the cost, Hume said.
On Friday, Robertson said he had no additional comment on the subject, but he has predicted the council will approve the project when it meets at 7p.m. at City Hall.
In other business, the council will hold its public forum and consider adopting a tourism-related zoning district for 205 acres around the Crown Coliseum. The district would include new restrictions on highway billboards in that vicinity.
A majority of the council members have said they will vote to award an $11.6 million contract to the lowest bidder, Construction Systems Inc. of Fayetteville, for the transit center.
Councilman Mitch Colvin last week emailed Hume suggestions that could save as much as $750,000. Some of his ideas concerned using alternative construction materials or methods.
Hume replied to Colvin, saying city officials would work with the contractor to attempt to trim costs through a process known as "value engineering." He said some of Colvin's ideas "were already targets for those discussions."
Colvin said he intends to approve the bid Monday.
Staff writer Andrew Barksdale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3565.
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