Levy County Road Supervisor Bruce Greenlee (left) and William “Bill” Bachschmidt, a principle in D.A.B. Constructors of Inglis, speak to the County Commission. Bachschmidt noted that he lives and works in Levy County, and that he is among the taxpayers of the county.
FANNING SPRINGS – Since the Fanning Springs City Council only meets once a month, a special meeting was called with little notice on Wednesday (Oct. 15). This was reportedly the third special meeting related to an infrastructure project to help Holiday Inn Express place a hotel in Fanning Springs. There is a Dairy Queen slated for construction in this economic development plan. On a motion by City Councilwoman Barbara Locke, seconded by City Councilwoman Jane Nogaki, there was a 4-0 vote of approval to cover any overage on the estimated $1.4 million worth of infrastructure improvements. That is $1.4 million noted as an opinion of probable construction costs for this possible Holiday Inn Express to be built in the Gilchrist County part of the city of Fanning Springs on property located behind Capital City Bank. Joining in the positive vote with Locke and Nogaki were City Council Chairman Paul Chase, who called the special meeting, and City Councilman Marty Sanchez. Mayor Cheryl Nekola was present, but the mayor does not vote in Fanning Springs government. One City Council members was absent – Whitney “Stoney” Smith. Also absent were City Attorney Conrad Bishop Jr. and City Clerk Sheila Watson. With four of the five members present at the special meeting there was a quorum. (In a previous version of this story, the city clerk and city attorney were listed as voting City Council members. We regret that error that was posted for some number of hours.) Also present were Rodger Nogaki (husband of Councilwoman Nogaki) and Howell “Trip” Lancaster, both candidates for mayor in the Nov. 4 election.
Fred Fox of Fred Fox Industries, the director of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for this economic development project, let the City Council know where the developer stood in regard to paying for infrastructure.
Fred Fox (left) and Greg Lang provide information to the four City Council members at the special meeting.
Fox said that in the first version of the agreement, the city put the onus on the developer if bids came in higher than the $1,366,700 opinion of probable estimated cost of construction. Beyond the $1.4 million estimated construction cost, there is $263,200 in engineering fees slated for Mittauer & Associates Inc., and $120,000 for grant administration. The developer of the Holiday Inn Express said that his being forced to pay the overage on construction costs for infrastructure would be “a deal breaker,” Fox said. The developer, according to Fox, said that he wants all of the city’s public infrastructure to be in place to open the facility – with no liability on the developer for that part of this project. If the city wants to pursue the project, it must agree to pay for any overage from the $1.36 million opinion of probable construction costs, which is the lion’s share of the total $1,749,900 total budget. Fox said the city is a year away from seeking bids. Greg Lang of Mittauer & Associates created the opinion of probable construction costs. While Lang believes they are accurate, because of the past experience and current market, no one can guarantee the construction firm placing the winning bid will come in at or below this estimated cost to build the infrastructure needed. CDBG comes from the federal government through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), Fox said. There is a (DEO) grant know as a Rural Infrastructure Fund, which Fox sees as potentially covering any difference between the CDBG and what a low bidding contractor might submit as a bid. Lang showed the City Council that if a bidder went 15 percent higher than his opinion of probable construction cost, it would add another $205,000. Adding 15 percent makes the total combined construction cost equal $1,571,705. The construction includes water lines, sewer facilities, street improvements, including curbing and gutters, added sidewalks and street lighting as well as three-phase electric power in the right-of-way. The city’s current local development regulations require some of these improvements, which may need to be scaled back – depending on bids. It will take a majority vote of the City Council to allow anything other than compliance with the local development regulations, which were established as part of growth management for the city. Fox said 60 days after the DEO offers the CDBG to the city of Fanning Springs, the city will lose the offer if the city does not accept that offer. If the other grant is not finalized, and the CDBG award is contingent on that, then the CDBG will be lost. There will be $200,000 in engineering fees due to Mittauer & Associates even if the project is scrapped, because by that point the engineering firm would have performed work on this project. There is a difference between the CDBG funds and the Rural Infrastructure Fund. The CDBG money is given to the city in advance. The other fund is reimbursed to the city after the city pays the bill or runs a line of credit. In the line of credit scenario, Fox said, the city will be “eating the interest,” meaning it must pay those percentage points. Lang clearly told the City Council that the opinion of probable construction costs is an opinion. It is based on the project that is not yet designed, but is conceptual. Mittauer & Associates has 25 years of experience with this type or work, Lang said. Contractors will give the city bids. The engineers do not control what is going to be bid, Lang said. Qualified contractors will submit sealed bids, which will be opened in public. “We cannot guarantee that this opinion of probable construction costs is going to be exactly within ‘X’ number of dollars or a percentage of what you see and receive for bids,” Lang said. In the motion by Locke, she included that the city will cover the overage and that the city is applying for the Rural Infrastructure Fund to cover funding if there is a gap between the CDBG that is awarded and the bid price given by the winning contractor. Fox said he believes it will take him a couple of weeks to complete the applications for the CDBG and for the Rural Infrastructure Fund. The DEO will take a month to review those applications. Fox said timing the process is important so that the CDBG is not awarded too early, because there is that 60-day window and the Rural Infrastructure Fund needs to be secured for that potential $200,000 gap or overage. Mayor Nekola mentioned that she is very much in favor of the hotel project. Nekola said she has endorsed growth for the city throughout the eight years she served as mayor. She reminded the audience that had the city not moved forward with its sewer treatment plant project, then Holiday Inn Express and Dairy Queen would not be able to build in the city. Mayoral candidate Lancaster said he is 100 percent behind the Holiday Inn Express project as well. Gilchrist County Commissioner Todd Gray, who is also a contractor, said he can speak only for himself but that he believes the county endorses the proposed project to add a Holiday Inn Express and a Dairy Queen. Gray mentioned that there is an economic development referendum question on the ballot for Gilchrist County voters. That would provide tax breaks for developers as an incentive to attract them. In this case, that is not needed, because the developer already chose to build in Gilchrist County. Richard Wilbur, a Fanning Springs resident, said he felt there needs to be a look at reality. The Holiday Inn Express in Chiefland no longer exists, he said. It went through a series of name changes after it closed. He does not foresee this hotel having any better long-term success than the one in Chiefland. Another person made the point that cabins at the state park are often completely booked and need to be reserved a year in advance. Therefore, there are people who want to stay close to the park.
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Forty-Sixth Jingle Singer
The newest performer of the HardisonInk.com jingle is Steve Bloom at Ace Hardware of Bronson, who is a singer in the choir at First United Methodist Church of Williston. Everyone is invited to sing the HardisonInk.com jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to editor@HardisonInk.com. He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree. (Thanks people!) This video was posted Oct. 6, 2014. The next jingle singer will be a person who has not even been videotaped doing it yet. -- Video by Jeff M. Hardison