Rec Center expansion

The proposed Rec Center expansion, in the imagination of designers. The project may cost $9 million more than initially proposed, officials say.

Jackson town councilors and Teton County commissioners are moving the Rec Center expansion forward in the design phase, despite not yet having a firm solution to a projected $9.2 million budget shortfall on the project.

At their Monday afternoon joint information meeting the elected boards again discussed with Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation Director Steve Ashworth and other members of the team working on the expansion the reasons for the cost overrun.

Among themselves the bodies deliberated potential options for funding the project. It initially was slated to be paid for with $22 million in specific purpose excise tax funds approved by voters in 2019. However, certain upgrades to the plan, such as a larger climbing wall and fitness areas, and unanticipated increases in construction costs and supply-chain interruptions — both of which are either partly or entirely owed to the COVID-19 pandemic fallout — now have the expansion project’s cost at an estimated $31.2 million. The details of the various costs, including expected cost increases, are listed in Ashworth’s staff report for the meeting.

A number of funding options were discussed. Among the possibilities are the town and county simply paying for the overage out of their general funds over the next two fiscal years, with the town paying 45% and the county 55% of the added cost. Ashworth noted the project’s anticipated completion date is in 2024, which would necessitate the general fund drawdowns being in the next two fiscal years. The possibility of another SPET election next year was also deliberated.

The electeds ultimately opted to advance the project to completion of designs and into the permitting process over the next three to four months, but not before they queried Ashworth about the advantages of doing so without having a firm handle on the exact cost and how it would be paid for.

“How much more detail are we going to be able to get, because I think one of the things we’re all struggling with is $9 million is a whopping big figure,” Councilor Jonathan Schechter said. “And is this additional process going to be able to lower the price? Is it going to give more options for picking and choosing cost factors? Will we be able to make a fundamentally different decision four months from today than we could make today?”

Ashworth said yes, because the bodies will have “more information in February and then obviously you’re going to have more information in April when we get hard bids” on the work. He added that areas for cost savings could be pinpointed as the design process progresses.

The two boards voted unanimously to advance the project, with the expectation of having updated cost estimates by approximately Feb. 4, after which they will hold another joint information meeting to discuss the updated estimates and consider “add-alternatives,” according to the staff report.

“One of the things we’re struggling with is $9 million is a whopping big figure.” — Jonathan Schechter jackson councilor

Contact Tim Woods at 732-5911 or town@jhnewsandguide.com.

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