2017-08-25 / Community

City invests in Redbank Community Center

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — After voting this past spring to forego a long-planned expansion of Redbank Community Center, the South Portland City Council made good Monday on promises to nonetheless invest in the building, located at MacArthur Circle, on the city’s west end.

At its Aug. 21 meeting, councilors voted unanimously to fund five projects at the site, totaling nearly $185,000 worth of work. Jobs on the docket include replacing gymnasium bleachers, repairing and refinishing the gym floor, replacing the winch system that raises and lowers the basketball backstops in the gym, replacing the divider curtain used to section off the gym for different events, and renovating the center’s kitchen, along with repairing the roof and sealing the building’s exterior walls.

The 11,820-square-foot center was built in 1997 to serve the Redbank and Brick Hill neighborhoods, along with other low income areas on South Portland’s west end. The facility is dominated by the gym, but also includes a small multi-purpose room and a kitchen. The site hosts a teen center with about 35 regular participants, the Teen Extreme Summer Camp, youth basketball games, senior cribbage tournaments and monthly community dinners, as well as various programs staged by the city recreation department and other local organizations.

At a March 28 meeting, the council decided to pass on an expansion project that would have renovated the building while adding a 1,600-square-foot community room, primarily for teen use, and a 500-squarefoot storage room. Currently, the building has no storage space and all gym equipment is pushed to one side of the room when not in use.

In a presentation at the time, Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Adams said the new community space also could provide a home to the Redbank Hub Resource Center, which now operates off-site in a portable trailer on Westbrook Street. Other planned additions included an IT room and a supervisor’s office, along with overhauls to the building’s HVAC equipment and bathrooms.

However, the price tag for the project, originally pegged at $850,000 when planning began three years ago, had grown by this year to $1.37 million. According to city Finance Director Greg L’Heureux, South Portland got $90,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding to design the expansion as part of the program’s 2016 allocation. The city had also committed $189,901 from its 2017 Community Development Block Grant award and applied for another $270,228 this year. L’Heureux said the city also had access to about $300,000 left over from other past Community Development Block Grant projects. The plan was to ask for a $490,000 draw from the city’s undesignated surplus fund, to be paid back with future grants, but L’Heureux advised the future of the Community Development Block Grant funding stream looked grim following the election of President Donald Trump.

“The Trump administration has indicated they would like to terminate the (Community Development Block Grant) program, so there’s kind of a cloud on the third leg of the funding for this project,” he said at the time.

With that in mind, the city’s Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee, which vets applications for grant dollars, voted March 15 to re-allocate current and past dollars earmarked for the project to other infrastructure needs on the west end. City Manager Scott Morelli said specific projects would be chosen that comply with the city’s West End Master Plan.

However, as the council finalized this year’s capital improvement projects budget, it was decided the west end plan includes maintaining the Redbank Community Center, and the $270,000 that was to be part this year’s Community Development Block Grant request was earmarked for that work.

“These (projects) are related to upgrades previously approved by the council,” Morelli said.

“It’s great that you’re throwing some money out there, because that’s an area that was neglected for a while, and that is an up-and-coming area out there,” Brigham Street resident Russ Lunt said at Monday’s meeting. “Yes, I think that’s great, because it’s getting vibrant out there.”

Councilor Claude Morgan agreed, noting that while the council also voted Monday to spend $39,945 to upgrade the lighting system at the municipal pool in the community center on Nelson Road, near the high school, the Redbank Center work was all for “repairs and maintenance.”

“That speaks volumes about the attention that we’ve given to that building,” he said, echoing Lunt’s comment. “You look at that building over the last couple of years and, perhaps to nobody’s great surprise, it’s in considerable disrepair. Resources have not been allocated to that building in the same way we have regularly upkept other buildings.

“This is a move to address that and it’s well deserved and could not come quicker,” Morgan said.

In a somewhat new process for the council under the Morelli administration, all Redbank Center projects, as well as the pool upgrade, were handled in a single vote on the consent calendar portion of the meeting agenda. The bid awards were handled that way to save meeting time that would have otherwise been spent to debate and vote on each contract individually. After all, as Councilor Eben Rose said, “There is expected to be unanimity.”

“These are absolutely pro forma expenditures,” Morgan said, further explaining the need for a single vote.

“This is pretty straightforward and is things we’ve discussed before,” Councilor Linda Cohen agreed.

“And a lot of it has to happen before other things can happen,” she added, suggesting this round of work may not be the last dollars directed to the the Redbank Center in the near future.

According to Morelli, the city sent out 150- plus bid packets to qualified vendors. Sealed bids were opened July 27 at city hall.

Two companies responded to the request for new bleachers. Of those, the low offer of $19,681 came from the Robert H. Lord Company of Manchester, Connecticut.

Four bids were submitted for the gym floor work. Of those, New England Sports Floors of Lowell, Massachusetts, required the least in payment – $43,500.

The backstop and curtain job drew two bids and A+ Athletic Products, of Rollinsford, New Hampshire turned in the low offer, asking $11,600.

Only one company, Doten’s Construction of Freeport, put in a bid for the kitchen renovation, and with Adams’ advice that the bid did indeed meet specifications, the council accepted Doten’s $41,700 request.

The roof and exterior wall work also few just one bid, with LGR1, Inc., of Lowell, Massachusetts, asking $68,000. Advised this lone bid again met all specifications, the council awarded the contract.

The council packet provided to the public did not identify any companies in the mix other than the low bidders. In awarding the contracts, the council did not identify an expected completion date for the work.

Bid packets for the pool work at the Nelson Road community center were mailed to 27 electrical contractors. The two bids submitted were opened Aug. 1, with Interstate Electrical Service of York tendering the low offer.

The 27 new LED lighting fixtures will replace the existing “antiquated” metal halide lamps, Morelli said. The lights “blow out quickly for the amount of use at the pool,” Morelli wrote in a memo to the council, and the pool must be closed “three or four times” per year, shutting the doors for two days at a whack each time so electrical contractor can bring in a lift to place on the pool deck, in order to replace six to seven of the high overhead lamps each time.

Additionally, each metal halide lamp is only good for about 5,000 hours, Morelli said, while the LED lights have a reported lifespan of 26 years, each. Given the annual replacement cost of the older fixtures, Morelli predicted the LED lights will save the city $37,800 in maintenance costs over the next quarter century.

Not only that, but the annual $8,987 in energy savings from use of the more efficient LED lights will translate to $240,000 before the new fixtures need to be replaced, Morelli said.

Return to top