City moves forward with renovation project

Surplus from other projects to cover extra costs
Jan. 10, 2013 @ 11:41 PM

The Gatlinburg City Commission decided to go ahead with a project that came in approximately $73,000 over budget due to extra details that weren't taken into account, officials said at a commission workshop Tuesday evening.

The Parkway Visitor Center Renovation Project was first proposed in November 2011, and in February 2012 the city approved a grant agreement with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) regarding the project.

During the February meeting, design consultant Steve Fritts said the cost of the project would be approximately $700,000. Of that total, over $500,000 would be provided by the TDOT grant.

But it turned out that the total cost of the project exceeded the budget by about $73,000.

"There were a number of reasons for that, mainly related to the refinement of the design," Fritts said. "If you remember, back in January (2012) we did a concept ... and that was it. We didn't have any details. ... As we refined it, things unfortunately went up instead of down."

Previously, the city planned to use around $98,000 from already completed projects to cover the renovations, but Finance Director David Beeler said the maneuvering didn't happen.

"We don't know why (the maneuvering failed to happen)," Beeler said.

Beeler said those funds still exist, including roughly $270,000 that went unspent in the Underground Utilities and Streetscape Project. Now, the city is looking to maneuver these funds to cover the cost of the renovations.

"All that maneuvering is more than enough to cover (the total cost) if you want to go with this concept as it's laid out," Beeler said.

Fritts guessed that construction may begin in late February and may be completed in June. City Manager Cindy Ogle assured that no debt would surface from the project.

The project will still retain all the originally planned renovations to the Parkway Visitor Center, located at the intersection of U.S. 321 and U.S. 441 (Traffic Light No. 3), including a splash pad, interpretive mountain areas, expanded seating areas and removal of vegetation.

Commissioner Mark McCown asked whether anything else might cause issues with the project.

"Bad soils," Fritts said. "There's a bunch of tanks that go underground for this fountain system, and until we start excavating and we see what's in the ground we really don't know what we're going to encounter from a soils perspective.

"And it's with every project, and it's what I try to tell most clients: If you've ever built a house, you know you're going to run into something that you want to change."

rhargett@themountainpress.com