The Ridgecrest City Council at its meeting Oct. 4 approved a contract for $2,272,387 with contractor South Bay EDC Inc. for the Kerr McGee Youth Sports Complex renovation project. As part of the same motion, council also approved $283,802 in previously unallocated tax allocation bond  funds be used as part of the funding for the project. According to Parks and Recreation Department Recreation Supervisor Jason Patin, the total of $2,272,387 will be made up of a previously allocated amount of $1,988,585 plus the additional $283,802.

Patin described the project as “almost a complete renovation of the entire facility from the irrigation systems all the way up.” In response to a question, Patin noted that there is no retrofit project for the current lighting system but there is a construction project for additional lighting on the soccer field. Patin said the bleachers will be brought up to ADA compliance and will hold more people.

The project has had a lengthy, complicated and somewhat bizarre history, including the unexpected discovery of almost $200,000 in TAB funds. Patin said that he personally has been aware of the project for several years, as a planning commissioner, council member and now staff member, but said he did not know where the TAB funds came from.

The project was put out to bid once previously and all bids received were too high. “The closest one was about $1 million over our allocated budget that we had for the project,” Patin said. Subsequent to that, the project was slightly scaled down. To save money, Patin said, painting the parking lot and replacing fencing were taken out of the project. He said perimeter fencing will be repaired by not replaced.

In a turn of events Patin described as “strange,” he said that an additional $196,023 in TAB funds was discovered unexpectedly.
“It's very strange and this happened before I came aboard so I can't really explain it but there were two separate accounts set up for TAB funds for the city project so we discovered there was $196,000 and $1.7 million for the same project.

“How that happened I don't know. It happened before my time. So we combined those two dollar amounts and that's how we came up with the actual amount that's allocated to pay for the project, almost $2 million,” he said.

The project was put out to bid again. This time one bid was received but it was determined to be non-responsive so the city technically received no bids. According to City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen, this opened the door for the city to begin negotiating with contractors.

According to Patin, the city's consultant ultimately approved of the contractor's modified bid so the item was brought before council at their meeting.

Patin said the city's consultant “went over the bid with a fine tooth comb, all the numbers add up and we are getting exactly what we asked for in the project.”

Because all of this happened at the last minute, the item as listed on the agenda was incorrect.

Pilchen said that per the Brown Act, in order to discuss the new item council had to make two findings: one was that information was received too late to be agenda-ized and two was that the item could not wait two weeks to discuss. Pilchen said the first condition was obviously met because the information was received at the last minute.

Patin took on the second condition.

According to Patin, the project needs to get underway as soon as possible in order to allow enough time to be ready for the upcoming baseball season.

“Under the current agreement the project would start on Oct. 20 and it would finish Feb. 2,” Patin said, noting that this presumes ideal conditions.

“That gives us about a month cushion, we are already going in to the start of the baseball season to get the project complete,” he said. Patin said waiting another two weeks to approve the contract would be “too risky.”

A two-thirds vote was required to add the new item to the agenda at the meeting. Council voted unanimously to do so. All five members were present.

They were then tasked with deciding whether or not to approve the $2.27 million contract for the project and, if so, where to find the additional funding.

Patin suggested two options. He said there was a total of $316,351 in unallocated TAB funds and the Parks and Recreation Department has $236,000 in impact fees “as we sit.”

According to Patin and interim City Manager Ron Strand, the TAB funds need to be expended as quickly as possible.
“The impact fees,” Patin said, “are obviously fees that have to be used in the parks and recreation department and we've got plenty of areas that can use that money and there is no deadline.”

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Mower made a preliminary motion to use TAB funds for the additional money. This was followed by public discussion, with Mower restating his motion prior to council's vote.

Mike Neel said that he would have liked to see an itemized list of items included in the renovation prior to last week's meeting.
Patin said that one of the hopes for the renovation is that it will attract more tournaments to the area, with all the associated revenue from visitors. Patin said the average is about one tournament a year now and he hopes to get as many as four with a more attractive field.

Neel asked why more people would be interested in tournaments if the facility will essentially remain the same size. Patin replied that the reality is that a more attractive facility attracts more out-of-town people.

“If you are going to travel 100 miles to a game, you want a top-notch place to go. You don't want to sit where you are going to get splinters in your bottom,” Mayor Peggy Breeden said.

Approval of the contract and the additional TAB funding was unanimous. All five council members were present.