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June 2012
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PARED PRDA made good effort reining in riverfront costs

The Paducah Riverfront Development Authority has done we think a credible job, given what it had to work with, in reining in the runaway costs of the city's federally funded Riverfront Development Project.

The development has taken some deserved lumps from the public for huge overruns in the first phase of the roughly $10 million project. A boat launch with parking ran $334,000 over its $2.27 million budget. More notoriously, the $3 million "bump-out" - a land mass designed to protect a proposed future marina and also provide an extension of public use space in Schultz Park, ran more than $1.8 million over budget and will need an estimated $1,147,500 more to be brought to design elevation, which the PRDA recommends be done.

The bump-out overrun is the result of rock sinking into the river bottom far beyond the level engineers had anticipated. The bump-out was relocated after environmental issues compromised the originally proposed site. The city had taken core samples of the river bottom at the original site, but opted not to do so at the new site, and the result was the $3 million surprise it now faces. The city and its engineers have been roundly criticized for that outcome, as we think they should be.

However we also have concluded after reading the PRDA's 16-page report on the project finances that completion of the land mass to the designed elevation is at this point appropriate and necessary. The land mass serves a far greater purpose than just protecting the transient boat dock and potential future marina. It is really the center of the project and we believe it will greatly increase the usability of the riverfront by the public in the Schultz Park area. It will expand the park to about 7 acres, providing much more accessible space for river viewing than presently exists on the riverfront. We think the public will be pleased with the outcome, if not the cost.

As for cuts elsewhere in the project, we think the PRDA did the best it could with what it had to work with. The agency had $5.1 million in remaining funds for the second phase of the project, with costs set to exceed those available funds by close to $2 million. The agency pared that by $1.4 million by eliminating a marina services building, scaling back the scope of the transient dock and fueling facility, and modifying the types and amounts of materials used for amenities. It also deferred $490,000 worth of landscaping and parking for future consideration.

In the end, the PRDA brought the overrun of phase II of the development to $481,000 and that includes a 10 percent contingency for unanticipated costs. Absent the contingency, phase II would be on budget.

That's pretty good work under the circumstances. We continue to believe the city made a mistake not deferring some of the development of the $2 million-plus boat launch. While we will grant that the six launch ramps and parking for 100 vehicles is great for the occasional bass tournaments the city hosts, something about half that size would have been more than enough to accommodate local needs on an average weekend. Deferring half of the boat launch project would have allowed a lot more financial flexibility on the Schultz Park part of the project, which we think will be utilized by a far greater number of people over time.

But we'll give credit where credit is due. The project costs were spiraling out of control to an extent it was starting to lose public support. The city made a wise choice in tapping the PRDA to pull in the reins, and the agency has in our view responsibly completed its difficult assignment.

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