Project $200K over budget

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2009

According to the Alabama Department of Conservation, when work was halted in July at Florala State Park, the community center and amphitheater project was already more than $50,000 over budget and only 75 percent completed.

Now, contractors now say it could take upwards of $200,000 to complete the building, which does not include paving the parking lot.

In September, the state said there was no funding left to complete the 10,400-square-foot community center, which at the end of July boasted bare sheetrock and concrete floors and no ceiling. A year earlier, the State Parks Joint Legislative Committee approved $1 million for the project. An additional $1 million in labor and equipment cost was contributed through the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s Innovative Readiness Team (IRT) program.

Mark Easterwood, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources state parks director, said recently obtained quotes from two contractors to finish the building came in at $125,000 and $217,000 respectively.

“There are also two outstanding bills left — $18,228 for the architect and $46,343 for exterior building work,” Easterwood said. “There’s only $9,790 left out of that $1 million bond money, so no matter how you add it up, it’s $54,781 in the hole.”

Funds are also needed to pave the parking lot and approximately $50,000 is needed to purchase incidentals such as tables, chairs and refrigerators.

State officials cited “lean times in state government” for the funding shortage and said the state parks system is self-sufficient and does not receive money from the state’s general fund. Therefore, facility operations are the sole responsibility of the Department of Conservation.

Operational costs for Lake Jackson are $175,000 per year. In 2008, approximately $75,000 was generated as local revenue at the park.

“I guess any way you look at it, it all comes down to money,” Florala Mayor Robert Williamson said Wednesday. “The search is on to find the cash. Our plan and the state’s plan are to look under every rock to find the necessary funding to finish this project. Florala needs it. It’s going to get finished. It’s the how and when that’s up in the air.”

Currently, the city, the state and the Kiwanis Club are working together to create a proposal to seek out funding sources, which will include grants, Williamson said.