PAHOKEE — A county official came to inform Pahokee city commissioners on Oct. 22 about progress in the project to renovate the old city gymnasium. Audrey Wolf, director of facilities development and operations for Palm Beach County, told them, “I could not be more excited to be here tonight … to give you an update on the progress we have made to date.”
When the first phase was substantially completed in July 2016, she said the county was confident it would be usable by the public for many athletic and non-athletic activities, “literally dozens of things that can be done with a community assembly area as large as that one.” But, she said, they knew there would have to be further work to accommodate organized basketball because of the condition of the gym floor and subfloor. “The plan was for the city contractor to go in and complete the interior work while we achieved final completion. The work to complete the facility was estimated by the city at about $75,000,”
Then, however, Ms. Wolf added, the city “chose a partner to complete a much more extensive renovation, including … the lower level of the structure.” A year later, the county learned the partnership was unsuccessful.
“The condition of the interior of the gym needed more work than the way we left it at the end of the renovation on account of some of the early demolition that had taken place in anticipation of the partnership moving forward,” she explained. “So after another request by the city, and the county understanding that without the facility being open to the public, our federal funding was jeopardized, the board (of county commissioners) allocated an additional $750,000 to the project, to bring the county’s total commitment to the project to $1,763,000.” The extra money was approved in July but not available until Oct. 1.
Last November, they met at the gym with City Manager Chandler Williamson and the assistant county administrator “to … jointly prioritize the work that needed to be done, as all indications from the contractor with most knowledge of the building was that the scope that we were looking at, even just for the gymnasium area itself, was going to exceed the $750,000 that had been allocated,” Ms. Wolf said.
Enlarging restrooms on the gym floor, creating handicapped-accessible entrances, flooring, electrical capacity and lighting levels, interior paint and infilling the high extra windows that are in the facility were decided to be top priorities. “The city manager also mentioned that he would like electronically retractable backboards, and a new scoreboard. At that time we didn’t believe that the funding was sufficient to get through even the first three scope items let alone the six priorities, with the big unknown being the floor,” Ms. Wolf explained. The backboards and scoreboard were deleted.
Then, she said, they worked with the original engineer for the city’s private partner, who was most familiar with the building, saving “tens of thousands of dollars that could be put back into the project instead of being paid to the architect and engineer” because the work to create drawings from scratch was averted. Palm Beach County’s federal contractor and flooring subcontractor visited and found that the floor was in good shape except for about 500 square feet that was water-damaged, she said. They provided an estimate that they could reinforce all of the floor from the crawl space, cut out and replace the damaged wood, sand the entire floor and reseal everything for about $25,000. Other options would have cost two to three times more.
“The focus needs to be on reinforcing the subfloor,” however. Ms. Wolf said that will cost about $223,000 and needs to be done. The building’s exterior will be repainted, additional lighting put at the entrance as well as a canopy, and the city logo is to be painted at center court.
She said, “Now the design is complete, and the engineer’s estimate indicates that all six priorities can be accomplished within the budget. Fingers are crossed the bids come in at that level,” Ms. Wolf added.
The current schedule should result in completion “about next August,” she said.
She stressed that the county must get the facility open. “That is why the federal funding is being jeopardized, because the facility’s not in use. We need to get it in use. We feel strongly that the city needs to really consider what complement of athletic and non-athletic programming is most important to the community and come up with a plan to start using it when the facility is done,” she warned.