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Bids for South Berkeley Recreation Center exceed $1.5 million donation

January 31, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The low bid for the South Berkeley Recreation Center came in about $600,000 higher than what Powerball jackpot winner W. Randy Smith donated for the project, according to bids unveiled Tuesday.

The $2,118,333 proposal by Smithsburg-based Roy C. Kline Contractors was the last of 11 proposals announced at the bid opening Tuesday at the Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center in Martinsburg.

The bids exceeded the $1.5 million commitment that Smith, the project benefactor and Powerball winner, announced last year. But Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board Executive Director R. Stephen “Steve” Catlett said Tuesday night he believes it would be “a huge mistake” to try to redesign plans to lower the cost for the 18,200-square-foot building set to be built at Musselman High School in Inwood, W.Va.

“We’ll do what we have to do. We’re going to make sure it happens,” Catlett said.

Faced with the funding gap, Catlett said he plans to “beat the bushes” for more funding and one of his first phone calls would be to Charleston, W.Va., where state lawmakers are in session and have yet to approve next year’s budget.

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The project was previously awarded $75,000 in state funding, which Catlett said was put toward design and planning costs. That allowed Smith’s contribution to remain untapped and available for the cost of site work and construction, Catlett said.

The cost of the project would have been closer to matching Smith’s gift if the state’s prevailing wage law did not have to be factored in labor cost, according to Catlett. Site work also was costly because of the presence of limestone, according to Catlett.

With the two issues factored into the equation, bids came in as high as $2.5 million, propelling Catlett to look for funding and explore options to keep the project on track. 

Catlett said he will present the results of the bid opening to the Parks & Recreation board of directors to decide what direction to take. They could proceed to build as much of the project as possible with available funds and then complete what is left unfinished when funding is available, Catlett said.

When informed of the bid results Tuesday evening, Smith said he would do his best to try to help find some funding in the community and suggested some of the large employers in the area might be willing to help close the funding gap.

“This is just a bump in the road and certainly not the end of the effort,” Smith said.

The former sheriff and magistrate also joked that he was going to have to go out and buy more lottery tickets and he also quipped that residents in southern Berkeley County should do the same. The estimated Powerball jackpot for tonight’s drawing is $170 million.

The project was jump-started by Smith’s financial backing, which was committed through a fund he established with the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation after he won the lottery in August 2010.

Smith cited his grandson’s lack of a place to play basketball in southern Berkeley County when he announced the donation and on Tuesday said he believes the recreation center is “a real need” for the growing community.

The recreation center was designed by Vienna, Va.-based Helbing Lipp Ltd. to house two gymnasiums, and includes areas for restrooms, concession, staff and storage. The building is to be built on the south side of the high school next to the student parking lot. It also was designed to allow for future expansions totaling more than 50,000 square feet, Catlett has said.

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