By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The city will proceed with plans to upgrade Rob Leake Park despite a heated debate this week about alleged cost overruns.
City Council members on Tuesday approved a $132,000 bid for a two-story tennis pavilion. Century Construction submitted the winning bid, which passed by a 5-2 vote. Dissenting were Jim Newell and Mike Bryan, of Wards 3 and 6, respectively.
Both men said the price came in roughly $50,000 over the original estimate and that Tupelo can’t afford to funnel money into non-essential projects.
“With gas prices going up … and all the other needs in the city,” Bryan said, “we need to prioritize what we do.”
But Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis argued the original estimate – $75,000 – was nonbinding and that funding already has been set aside through a five-year-old bond issue.
That $9.5 million issue had paid for Tupelo’s new baseball complex and new North Gloster Street fire station. It also will help construct a new police station, but some of the funds had been slated for a future aquatic center. Now that the aquatic center will get its own bond issue, however, funds from the first bond are free for other recreational projects.
Lewis presented about a dozen of such projects, including the tennis pavilion, to the council in November. He didn’t need the board’s approval; he just wanted to make them aware.
In any case, the final contract price will decrease by $23,500 before the city signs it. That’s because Tupelo already did engineering work and took soil samples, so those costs will be factored out. Also, the Tupelo Tennis Association raised $10,000 with a commitment to raise $10,000 more, leaving the city’s contribution at $88,500.
That’s still more than the original estimate but well within line, Lewis said.
Though the council approved the bid, it still needs to approve the contract, which could happen later this month. The contract itself will reflect the reduced cost from Century.
Work will start immediately and should be finished by the time Tupelo hosts the state tennis tournament in September.