At its first meeting Tuesday, Mayor George Bray and the newly installed Paducah City Commission voted unanimously to terminate a $1.1 million contract for work on the recreation/aquatic center project at Noble Park.
The city’s design and construction management services agreement with Nashville-based Lose Design was first approved in August 2019, but then suspended last summer. Officials paused the project, citing economic uncertainty with COVID-19, and left the decision with the next elected body.
Tuesday’s vote marked a large step taken on the proposed multi-million dollar project that became a 2020 campaign topic. It had received pushback from residents at public commission meetings, but also had supporters.
The plans included a two-story facility with a gymnasium, natatorium, an indoor walking/jogging track and locker rooms, among other amenities. In January 2020, the city also sold about $20 million in bonds for the project, meaning there are decisions to be made on how to use those proceeds.
Before the vote, the commission members each discussed the project’s timing, with new commissioners David Guess, Carol Gault and Raynarldo Henderson keeping their remarks brief.
Commissioner Sandra Wilson, who is the only returning member of the previous commission, said the project was “changed forever” due to the pandemic and key decisions fell during some of the hardest times.
“We had no way of knowing what the impact was going to be to our community, and to our city, and therefore ... the previous commission decided to put this project on pause — the design apart of this project on pause — until more was known about what would happen and the long-term impact of COVID-19,” she said.
“We still don’t know what it’s going to be, and we really aren’t going to know that for a while.”
Wilson later noted there’s a “new development” out there with the possibility of YMCA considering coming to Paducah.
“I hope that we will listen to that possibility, as a commission and as a community,” she said. “We’ve heard questions for years about, ‘Why couldn’t we have a Y?’ ”
In the mayor’s remarks, Bray said he agrees that the timing is “not right” and thinks there’s an opportunity in the future to work with the YMCA.
“I think that ... the financial structure of any project going forward would have to be really totally rethought, and we would need to engage community partners upfront and make sure that we have the right people with skin in the game in going forward,” he said.
Bray also said the community has “lots of needs” and city officials will be talking about those needs in a strategic planning session, which is scheduled for the first weekend in February.
He concluded by thanking people in the community who worked on the project, adding that their “work is not lost.”
“There’s a lot of good work that’s been put into this,” Bray said.
“I know that the people who worked on this believe sincerely in their hearts that it was the right thing for the community. We’ll look to the future and build upon the effort that we’ve had in the past. The project may look a little different in the future when we get to it, but I just want to make sure that every single person that put effort into this project — on behalf of the city, I want to say thank you for your efforts.”
After the meeting, City Manager Jim Arndt told The Sun that he doesn’t know what the final invoice will look like yet, in regards to the terminated agreement with Lose Design. Last year, Arndt shared that the city had paid $675,351.14 on the agreement.
“I’m not anticipating it to be anything major (on the invoice), but there’s also a caveat in the agreement — where if there’s any type of fees that they have for canceling the agreements with their subcontractors, then that would be the city’s responsibility to pay for those fees,” he said.
The entire meeting may be viewed on YouTube at paducahkygov.
In other business:
• By a 4-0 vote, Wilson was appointed to serve as Paducah’s mayor pro tem. She abstained from the vote. The role is traditionally given to the top vote-getter in the general election, which she was in November’s election.
• The commission unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that waives 2021 renewal fees for certain alcohol license types, in light of the economic impact of COVID-19 and public health measures.
According to the city, it mirrors the state and gives a benefit to businesses that totals about $96,830. Meeting documents stated that 108 businesses, which have 201 licenses total, will benefit from the renewal waiver.
• The commission approved several appointments and reappointments to local boards and commissions, including the Brooks Stadium Commission, Commissioners of Water Works, Electric Plant Board, Municipal Housing Commission, Paducah-McCracken County Joint Sewer Agency, Paducah Monument Committee, Code Enforcement Board, and the Paducah Riverfront Development Advisory Board.
• The commission OK’d an ordinance approved for Change Order No. 1 on a contract with Jim Smith Contracting, LLC, regarding Greenway Trail Phase 5. The project has been completed along the riverfront.
According to the city, it increases the final contract by $37,585.10. It’s due to a discovery of “large concrete deposits” beneath the construction site, which led to a need to raise the project area and import additional fill and soil.