The Dunwoody mayor and City Council voted 5-2 July 10 to spend up to $5.7 million for the design and construction of two new baseball fields adjacent to Brook Run Park.
The amount is still significantly more than the original budgeted $4.3 million to build the fields but the council agreed the remainder of the money would come from the city’s reserves. Mayor Denis Shortal and Councilmember Lynn Deutsch voted against the motion. Deutsch said she wanted the price to come down to at least $5.5 million while Shortal suggested putting the bid out for a request for proposal to try to possibly bring the cost down even more.
One reason for the increase in price from the original estimated $4.3 million is the city’s decision to use artificial turf rather than natural grass — that upped the overall costs by more than $1 million, bringing to the total to about $5.5 million.
The July 10 vote comes after the mayor and council in May rejected bids for the project because the lowest bid came in at slightly more than $7.3 million, much higher than the budgeted amount. A contractor that works with the state was able to estimate the afternoon of the July 10 meeting that the project could be completed at about $6 million, but with some shaving of costs the total would come down to between $5.7 million to $5.8 million, said Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker.
Shortal asked how much money the city had in reserve. Finance Director Chris Pike was not at the meeting but was contacted by City Manager Eric Linton by phone. Pike said via phone over a microphone that answering what was in the city’s reserve was a “complicated question.”
There is the city’s four-month reserve, there are homestead option sales tax (HOST) reserves and there are left over funds from other capital projects, Pike said. It would take a “fair amount of leg work” to come up with a total number, he added, but he also said he was confident the city had enough to cover the remaining costs for the new baseball fields. “I can say with confidence there is enough to do this project,” Pike said.
Council members discussed ways to cut costs include eliminating a planned playground until funds become available in the future and the city paying for only two batting cages rather than four.
Councilmember Jim Riticher brought up Donald Trump’s election as a possibility for rising construction costs, including the Dunwoody baseball fields, because Trump’s administration is believed to be more business friendly.
“Whether you like it or not, in talking to some contractors … things got really busy when Trump got elected,” he said.
The new fields being built on property once belonging to Peachtree Charter Middle School are to replace the current baseball fields in Dunwoody Park used by Dunwoody Senior Baseball that were sold as part of a land swap to the DeKalb County Board of Education.
Walker said putting out a request for proposal would delay the project another six weeks at least, and it was likely the costs would not change that much. The city is trying to build the fields before Feb. 1, when Dunwoody Senior Baseball’s fall league is slated to start.
Walker said after the meeting he still expects the new fields to be completed by Feb. 1. The school district is expected to demolish the current fields sometime in October to begin construction of the new Austin Elementary School; DSB is currently playing on those fields until it wraps up its current league play.
The two new baseball fields were part of a deal between the city and the DeKalb County School District that moved the baseball fields to land that had been part of Peachtree Charter Middle School while allowing the school district to build a new 900-seat Austin Elementary School on land that once belonged to the city as part of Dunwoody Park. The new school is currently slated to open in fall 2019.
The city also gets the property where the current Austin Elementary School stands to potentially become a park. The city also received $3.6 million from DeKalb Schools as part of the deal.