MARINETTE — When it comes to any community construction project, the main obstacle is usually funding. The new recreation center project in the City of Marinette is no different.
The Marinette City Council agreed unanimously to move forward with borrowing just over $16.1 million in order to realize the project, which has been in the works for over a decade. The decision came after an in-depth discussion on Thursday evening about the recent bid results for the project, which were presented by construction manager Michael Murphy with Scherrer Construction of Burlington, Wis., and project architect Duane W. Grove with Somerville Architects & Engineers of Green Bay.
Murphy previously received permission from the council to rebid 13 of the project’s 25 work categories on April 5, due to some bidding categories receiving no bids, receiving only one bid, or receiving bids that did not fit the specifications of the category. Protocol for the bidding process changed to reflect the initial results, particularly in regards to reaching out to more local construction firms and companies and making personal phone calls to other reliable companies.
Murphy reported Thursday that the city had received more favorable bid results after rebidding the project, but the final bid total for the entire project amounted to $16,119,644. He added that two less-expensive options were available, with the construction of just the hockey rink and tennis court portions amounting to $14,027,142 or the construction of the same two portions plus an outer shell for the turf gym amounting to $15,185,643.
Ward 3 Alderman John Marx said he was confused as to why the $16.1 million price tag was so far off from the original project cost estimate of $12 million.
“I see that your corporation was asked to design something within a dollar amount, and you didn’t meet that need, and now we’re talking another roughly 50 percent on top,” he said. “I just, I can’t understand where that much could have gone askew.”
Ward 4 Alderman Brian Walters likened the situation to building a house on a certain budget, drawing up initial designs under the price limit but then going back and adding things in to bring the final estimate up.
“Now you start getting into the specifics and now the cost is more than the conceptual plot,” he said.
The City of Marinette’s financial advisor, Phil Cosson, from Ehlers & Associates in Waukesha, Wis., appeared via speaker-phone to present possible financial borrowing options for the city. He presented the council with three borrowing scenarios to display the possible changes the money borrowed could have on the city’s tax rate, borrowing capacity and bond rating. Currently the city is rated at A1, a standard bond rating for a Wisconsin municipality according to Cosson, and has current debt outstanding at 16 percent of its limit with $27.5 million in residual capacity available for additional borrowing.
Council members had general agreement that they did not want to break up the timing of the project’s construction, and were supportive of the simultaneous construction of all pieces of the new recreation center.
“I wasn’t coming here today looking to have to borrow more money for the project, but I feel that this facility is a necessity for our community to be a sustainable community,” said Walters. “I think doing it now, not waiting, and doing it the way as designed, is the right thing for the community.”
“I think the timeline is there, the donors are there, and if we push this another year, we’re not going to have the support or the donations,” said Mayor Steve Genisot.
The council unanimously approved the building of the recreation center as originally planned, with the plan to borrow the $16.1 million needed to do so.
The borrowing of the $16.1 million would be amortized over 20 years, and would see an increase in taxes of around $38 per year to homes in the city valued at $100,000 for the duration. Money from the Marinette County loan and donations to the project would be used to help pay off the borrowed $16.1 million. The council will likely vote within the next week to accept the bids, borrow the money and proceed with the project.