Several of Waveland's residents on Thursday met with Mayor Mike Smith and City Clerk Mickey Lagasse to discuss their concerns about the construction of the community center at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Herlihy Street.
Smith said that right after he took office during his first term, he attended a Helping Hands meeting at the park's old community center.
He said he had just had a kidney transplant and that he told his wife, "I don't feel comfortable going in that building with mold two foot off the floor. And if I didn't feel comfortable, nobody else should have to do it either."
Once city employees began demolition of the center, they discovered that the outside lumber also had mold, Smith said. The studs were also rotten, he added.
Smith said the city also had about 127,000 concrete blocks at the city yard and one of the initial plans was to use those blocks to rebuild the exterior walls.
He said that just the labor costs for a brick layer was close to $10,000, so "we didn't have that budget."
Smith said he then talked to Nikki White at the Mississippi Development Authority about funding for a new community center at MLK Park.
Smith said he initially had Compton Engineering draw up design plans for a 40x60 center with an estimated cost of about $700,000. Smith said he didn't want to ask the MDA for that amount.
"So I said let's cut it in half," Smith said. "I'm thinking 1,200 square foot, the size of the house that we live in, should be quite big enough to do what we need to do."
The estimate of the 1,200 square foot center was $327,000, Smith said.
MDA awarded the city a grant in the amount of $327,000.
The city received three bids, all of which came in over the original estimate: D.N.P., Inc. at $466,200; Samuel Day Construction at $477,000; and David Rush Construction at $488,000.
"The highest bid and the only qualifying bid was $488,000, just for construction," Smith said. "That didn't include the grant oversight."
Smith that Gouras and Associates was awarded the oversight for the project, which is legally required. The engineering and administrative fees are based off a percentage allowed by state law of these projects.
Smith read off a list of fees paid as of Oct. 31
Engineering fees to Compton Engineering: $36,618
Gouras and Associates: $38,500
Construction costs: $373,258
Smith said that the city was short of money once the bids came in.
The bids were accepted at city hall, but MDA chose the contractor, Lagasse said.
At that point, Smith said, he and Alderman Bobby Richardson went to Jackson to ask MDA for the rest of the funding.
Smith said MDA awarded the city an additional $269,708 for a total of $641,000.
"Two separate grants, both Katrina grants, KCCR and HCCR," he said. "The KCCR had to be used first. The $269,708 had to be used first."
Smith told the crowd that he was able to get Gouras and Compton Engineering to cut down their fees, which left an additional $23,000 for playground equipment at the park.
Lagasse added that there is also another $30,000 in the contingency fund that can be used.
"We're going to put the brand new playground equipment and it's going to have the rubber on the bottom," he said. "We're moving that playground up to the front of the park closer to the west side. The swingsets are going to move, too. At the end of the day, we're going to have this 1,200 square foot community center with a kitchen, you can raise up the outside roll up door and have a concession stand. It's got two bathrooms accessible from the outside and two accessible from the inside."
Smith said that the city plans to order tables and chairs.
Smith said that he has been "troubled" by the rumors he's heard about the community center, such as "if this were in a white neighborhood, this would be a bigger community center."
"No it wouldn't," he said. "No other park in the city has a community center. This is the only one."
Another rumor Smith addressed is that the city is "pocketing money and that's why it's costing so much."
"There is no possible way to take a penny of grant funding or any state money or federal money because there are so many processes in place and those processes cost us on this project," Smith said.
Smith said that Waveland resident Clarence Harris had the idea of putting plywood on the backside of the stage and letting the children paint it.
Smith addressed the rumor that the "not all board members wanted to put a community center back in this community."
"I don't like saying this community," he said. "Because that's not how it is. The truth about what was said was why are we putting a community center in any park."
One resident asked if there was a set rental fee for the center.
Smith said there is a fee set by ordinance, which requires a $100 deposit fee for all the city's rental property.
To rent the community center on Coleman, the cost is $250, Lagasse said.
"We're going to put an amendment in to try and cut that in half," he said.
Lagasse said that if there's a community organization that wants to use the center, "there probably won't be a fee for that rental at all. Somebody will just have to guarantee that it will be clean when it's done."
Smith said that the outside bathrooms will remain open at all times.
He said that the fire department has not yet determined the building's occupancy load.
One resident asked why the two lower bids were disqualified.
"The two lower bids were disqualified because with HUD money, CDBG money, you have to have Section 3 requirements," Smith said. "Section 3 requirements are that you have to have a certain amount of your employees that are making below poverty level to work on that job. So the first two did not have that or have a history of that so they were disqualified by MDA."
Another resident asked if there would be audio and visual recordings at the center for security purposes.
Smith said that for the past year, the city has been looking at installing hi-definition cameras on every city-owned asset.
The current estimate for that is about $87,000, which means the project would have to be put out for bid since it's more than $50,000, he said. The city is gathering the specifications now for that purpose and working on getting Internet access to each location.
That will also allow for WiFi access at those locations, including the MLK Park community center, Smith said.
Smith said that there have been no change- orders on the project and that the community center is scheduled to be completed before the end of December.
Waveland resident Bryan Therolf asked why the stage demolition or relocation was not included in the scope of work.
Lagasse said that the city has spent $6,400 of city funds on the stage and said that the city had chosen to move the stage prior.
"Why let them mark it up, because they have to because of the cost of insurance, another 10 percent when we can save it and do it ourselves," Smith said.
Harris encouraged residents to voice their opinions about the community center.
"It's not the building I thought we were going to get at first," Harris said. "But I think if we use this building, it will be perfect. We're the only park within the city and the county that has a building in it so I'm saying let's use it. It's a community-type thing, let's use it. I would love to see that building open seven days a week doing some kind of community activity in it. The more we do in our community, the better our community is going to be. The more we use that building, the better it's going to be."