Supervisors are on a roll with bringing a community and recreation center to its newly-acquired property at Stump and Horsham roads, diagonal from the administration building.
Requests for Proposals were sent out today to various architectural firms, following Monday night’s 4-0 approval of the solicitation of the RFPs.
Supervisors Chairwoman Candyce Chimera was not in attendance.
On March 12, supervisors held a workshop meeting to discuss proceeding with a needs assessment and feasibility study for the property, which the township purchased for $1.5 million.
Township Manager Larry Gregan said comments made at that meeting by supervisors and residents were collected and the RFP was redrafted.
The plan is to have RFPs due to the township by April 20. A pre-proposal site tour is scheduled for April 16.
Gregan said notices of interviews to selected firms will be done by May 3, and then interviews with the board and top candidates on or before May 22.
“The target would be to have the board make a notice or selection of a firm by its meeting on May 22,” Gregan said.
The needs assessment study would begin by June 1 and end by October 1, Gregan said.
“Comments came up (March 12) that we might want to include school groups and the like (in the needs assessment). By starting in June, we really won’t get that much of an opportunity to engage stuents and schools in the needs assessment,” Gregan said. “We would look to be able to do that in September.”
He said the final feasibility report will then be presented in October, so that supervisors can move forward with decisions regarding the type of amenities, the size of the building and the like.
“At that point, we will then be in a position to go out and hire architectural services and engineering services, which in, by my experiences, that takes six months to a year to begin construction,” Gregan said. “We are still a good time away from having the facility there, but I think this lays out the groundwork for proceeding with bringing somebody on board with this first step.”
Supervisor Mike Fox said it is vitally important the township start this process.
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. I think we are taking the first step,” he said.
Fox inquired about what the feasibility document would look like when supervisors get it in their hands on October 3.
“Is it something that will outline what their suggestion is or what options there are for what we can put into a community center along with cost estimates for those various options?” he said. “I don’t want to get to October 3 and find out we don’t have an actionable document.”
Gregan said there would be several steps completed in between now and October 3.
“We would have had the needs assessment and there would have been meetings following the needs assessment where the consultant would identify what are the needs in the community,” Gregan said.
“They would then take that and build that into a program: what actual physical facilities should you consider including in the community recreation center? Do you want the basketball courts? Do you want an exercise room? Do you want community rooms? They will scope out sizes for them. Based on what you choose they will then put three concepts together: a low-, medium-, and high-cost concept plan of what you could build on the site, what amenities we could include in the facility and what those projected costs would be.”
Gregan said the selected firm would also give a cost estimate for the entire project.
“At the end, you can mix it up. We don’t want exactly this, we don’t want exactly that, take a combination of things. So then we would have to have tools to make a decision on what the facility should have,” Gregan said.
Fox worried that the October due date would not gather enough of the considerations of the school groups.
“Is it a possibility that if we awarded it, can we get their input first or meet over the summertime, rather than push the process out for after the start of the school year?” Fox said.
Gregan said he could ask the selected firm to shorten the process and emphasize the importance to include the consideration of school groups as soon as possible.
“I wouldn’t want to crunch this into a time period that was unreasonable to expect the professionals to get the job done, but also if we create a timeline that heads out to October, every job just fills the time allotted. So we aren’t going to get the project until October 1,” Fox said. “If that’s the amount of time they need, I respect that. I want to get a product that allows us to make a fully-informed decision. The board doesn’t want to make a decision on project that is rushed through.”
Gregan said the responses would mostly be from architectural firms, and those firms could bring in a subcontractor that does the community outreach. He said a sample of an RFP provided by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources showed multiple firms, a recreation analysis and community surveying.
“We need to know the expectations and what’s our expectation of operating the facility, what time of day to have it open, what staff to have during the day, do we have staff at nighttime and weekends. All those things go into making an ultimate decision of what kind of facility we want to have,” Gregan said.
Supervisors Vice Chairman Joe Walsh asked if the time period could end in September, and supervisors vote on the report in September.
Gregan said he would discuss that idea with the top candidates.
“We could ask during the negotiation process, can you put this part up front and emphasize that in the beginning as a first step and move forward on this?” he said.
Fox said supervisors are also toying with the heated-up economy. With an expectation of completing the building in 2013, supervisors could get in a situation where they have to borrow a substantial amount of money and have the interest rate creep up on them.
“We have to be cognizant of what it’s going to cost to operate the facility,” said supervisor Robert Birch.
, at a rate of 2.55 percent fixed for seven years, with the rate resetting every seven years at 67 percent of the prime.
The loan agreement will add $5.5 million in debt to the township and increase debt service payments, funded by dedicated tax millage, of the township, according to the ordinance.
Montgomery Township Planning Commission Chairman Jay Glickman commented Monday that the recently-completed Indian Valley Boys and Girls Club in Franconia is a “fabulous recreation facility” that has had great success.
“I think they can give us a very good idea of the cost to operate a facility like that,” Glickman said. “It’s similar to what we are considering for the township. I’d like to make a suggestion to contact them and visit the facility. It’s one of the nicest facilities in the area and very close to what we are considering.”
After the meeting, Walsh said the feedback from the community about and everyone he’s talked to about the community center has been that of sheer excitement.
“It’s something that’s been long overdue in the township. The board is striking while the iron is hot,” Walsh said.
One of the big things, he said, is the interest rates. With the economy changing, the township is going in the right direction and must keep moving in that direction to get some good rates.
“If we go through this and we find out it’s not the right time, obviously we have to make that decision,” Walsh said. “At this point, we need to get some direction, and I think getting an assessment and getting input from residents and township volunteers and committees, we will have a better idea when this thing will likely happen and what it will cost and what interest rates we will get.”
He said the feasibility report will ultimately give the supervisors the information they need in terms of committing real money to the project.
“If we can afford it sooner than later, I’m all for it,” he said.