Archive for Tuesday, May 21, 2013

City accepts recreation center bids, but won’ t proceed with building until Fritzel provides infrastructure costs

May 21, 2013


It is still a mystery how much a company led by Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel intends to charge the city for infrastructure improvements related to Rock Chalk Park and the city’s northwest Lawrence recreation center.

But city commissioners on Tuesday began sending their own message about how much they expect to pay for the entire project: $21.6 million.

City commissioners at their weekly meeting approved a preliminary debt resolution that anticipates the city will not spend more than $21.6 million for the entire construction project — including the cost of the 181,000-square-foot building, its parking lot, utilities, all management fees and soft costs that Fritzel’s company would receive.

Commissioners expressed disappointment that neither Fritzel nor Kansas University Endowment — which controls the project site near Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway — had produced firm numbers on the infrastructure costs for the project.

“We have been waiting on that number for some time, and it is now time that we get that in hand as soon as possible,” said City Commissioner Bob Schumm.

On a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved accepting the $10.5 million low bid from Fritzel’s Gene Fritzel Construction Company to construct the actual recreation center building. But the approval came with a caveat: The city would not sign the construction contract with the Fritzel firm until the city has received a firm quote on the infrastructure costs for the recreation center and the adjacent Rock Chalk Park development.

Schumm said the written quote needs to include language that the costs for the project “shall not exceed” an agreed-upon amount. By approving the preliminary bond documents Tuesday, the city has indicated it believes that amount should be at or below $21.6 million, Mayor Mike Dever said.

A majority of commissioners, though, said they were thrilled with the $10.5 million low bid on the recreation center. All nine bids received on the project came in well below the $18 million to $20 million architects had estimated for the project. The city had estimated the entire project — construction plus infrastructure — would cost the city $25 million.

“We’re going to have a municipally-appropriate building that we can be proud of and show off to our neighbors and show off to those in other states,” Dever said of the building that is expected to draw visitors to the city for regional youth sporting events. “I think the timing was very right to do this project.”

The city opened bids for the construction of the recreation center building — which will include eight basketball courts, an indoor turf field, walking track, fitness center and other amenities — last week.

But commissioners are deviating from standard city practice by allowing the infrastructure for the project to be built without going through a bidding process. Instead, a firm led by Thomas Fritzel will do the infrastructure work for the recreation center and the adjacent Rock Chalk Park, which will have stadiums for track, softball and soccer that will be owned by a Fritzel company but leased back to Kansas University.

Infrastructure work began on the Rock Chalk Park site prior to last week’s recreation center bid opening. But when city officials asked Fritzel for a quote on the infrastructure costs, he told the city he didn’t yet have a number to give them.

City Manager David Corliss confirmed on Tuesday the city also hasn’t received a signed master development agreement for the site from Kansas University Endowment Association.

Corliss revealed that part of the issue delaying the execution of the contract is questions over how large of a management fee Fritzel’s firm should be paid for overseeing the infrastructure construction.

The master development agreement calls for Fritzel’s firm to receive up to a 10 percent management fee on the cost of the infrastructure and site work. The city previously had estimated the cost of the infrastructure and site preparations to be about $9 million, although the recent batch of low bids has caused the city to re-examine that estimate.

Corliss said the city has the right to be part of the process of setting that management fee, and has entered discussions with the parties to negotiate a fee that is less than the 10 percent maximum.

Fritzel did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Tuesday’s actions don’t commit the city to issuing any debt for the project yet. Rather, the preliminary documents set a July 16 date to sell the city bonds for the project.

Commissioners approved all the necessary documents on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Mike Amyx opposing. Amyx has been consistently opposed to the city’s plans in the Rock Chalk Park area, and said Tuesday that he thought there were other city projects that deserved more consideration than the recreation center.

Depending on how quickly agreements are signed, construction on the recreation center could begin in June.


George_Braziller 4 years, 11 months ago

This entire project is like a bag of dead fish -- it just keeps smelling more rotten over time.

eddieboy 4 years, 11 months ago

Agreed. Stinks to high heaven!

The citizens of Lawrence are, once again, left footing the bill for a recreation facility that is falsely promoted as being for Lawrencians.

This is exactly what happened when Robinson was built some 40 years ago. The City of Lawrence was duped into partnering with KU to build Robinson. KU did this by stating that Robinson would be available for use by all Lawrence residents and they were saving Lawrence money so that we would not "have to" build a YMCA or YWCA.

Robinson has never been available for Lawrence residents and we got stuck with part of the bill and no access to the gyms. Robinson was the justification for us not having a Y. Do you know of another town the size of Lawrence without a Y? This is the reason.

Why in the world is the City of Lawrence partnering with a crooked developer to build a recreation center halfway to Topeka to which we will probably have very little access? Gene was an upstanding honest businessman. Thomas is not! He is profiting off of his father's good name.

Do you not think that he knew that the bids would be in this range? Does anyone believe that this was not the plan all along? Low building bids leaves more room under the spending cap for Thomas to bilk us once again.

How many people would rather have this rural behemoth, (greatly increasing the property values of some of Lawrence's shadiest developers), than have local neighborhood gym facilities? What a joke...and we weren't even allowed to vote on it.

The Lawrence City Commission is in bed with too many people.

bidrigging101 4 years, 11 months ago

KUED is enabling Fritzel to over profit at the taxpayers expense. Why is the University sitting silent allowing their partner Bliss Sports LC to conduct business in this fashion. It reflects poorly on KU and makes them a party to the scam. The leaders at KU Endowment should be fired.

It's common practice for Schumm to deceive the public but you would hope an organization like KUED would conduct their business with the highest of standards. Guess not.

Anthony Mall 4 years, 11 months ago

As I said in another article.. " not a fan of Lawrence politics..." The city accepted a low bid knowing that bid was a completely fabricated number made up just to get a contract without agreeing to or seeing final costs? I have only been here a few years but I believe I have finally figured out why Lawrence is ranked near the bottom in those surveys everyone enjoyed arguing about... The city needs to outsource one if those "experts" they are so good at hiring to review this and perhaps a doctor to remove heads from other places...

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

21.6 million tax $$$$$$ after the bids came in so low? Hmmmmmmmm

Why? Where are the city numbers for the taxpayers? Why so much money for infrastructure?

I thought the number was maybe 5 million tax $$$$$$? For a total of maybe 16 million tax $$$$$?

Why not simply award the bid that have complete information? The city has 8 other choices well below he 25 million tax $$$$$$$$.

Nothing says the bid must go to a Fritzel name. This Fritzel name owes taxpayers $50,000 on a site plan violation. How many site plan violations does the name Fritzel have attached to the name?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

"Infrastructure work began on the Rock Chalk Park site prior to last week’s recreation center bid opening." LJW

Why in the world would city hall OK this before having all of the ducks in a row? A reckless business practice to say the least.

City Hall pull the plug UNTIL all of the i's are dotted and T's are crossed.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

Seems to me the other parties submitting bids would be curious as to why matters are proceeding prior to any bids being accepted?????

How many people in Lawrence have the authority to give a "green light" before contracts are awarded?

Do any city commissioners? How much do City Commissioners know? Can the city manager "approve" without city city commission authority?

"But commissioners are deviating from standard city practice by allowing the infrastructure for the project to be built without going through a bidding process." LJW

Why not bid this out? Saving tax dollars is NOT a bad idea. What's up?

"Commissioners approved all the necessary documents on a 4-1 vote " LJW How can this be done without all of the $$$$$ numbers?

deec 4 years, 11 months ago

I can think of a few reasons written on green paper.

smileydog 4 years, 11 months ago

So the management fee is a separate extra? I predict infrastructure at $11.1 and the management fee will be /.90 of $21.6 or $2.4 million. So the total cost including management will be $24 Million, a savings of $1 Million to the taxpayers (hee, hee). A question I wonder, will any of the commissioners/city manager be part of the management?

Topple 4 years, 11 months ago

What a joke. As soon as a dozen bids were received at nearly half the original estimates when Fritzel was guaranteed the job, everything should have stopped, and there should have been an investigation.

How can any competent architect estimate the cost at $20 million while nine companies bid at $10-14 million?

Also, how is it the city is estimating to not spend more than $21.3 million now when they were originally saying the infrastructure cost would cap out at $8 million? $10.5 million + $8 million = $18.5 million, not $21.3 million. Or is this the mandatory $3 million pocket-lining? Perhaps an implied $3 million in change orders?

Oh, I forgot, screwing taxpayers is regular practice in construction. Good thing we have a Mayor with a backbone...

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

How could the Fritzel's participate in the final bidding process if all the criteria had not been met aka having all of the numbers in?

And having a $50,000 fine yet to be paid?

Again are the other parties owning submitting bids curious as to why matters are proceeding prior to any bids being officially accepted?????

Could be one of the other slightly higher bids MIGHT provide a better bang for the tax buck???

puddleglum 4 years, 11 months ago

the saddest part is that the joke is on us. again. he gets the jelly donut, we pay for it. and NOBODY will stand up.

pizzapete 4 years, 11 months ago

It's more like the city is buying him the donut shop and we're all being made to purchase his donuts for the next 30 plus years.

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