Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Council prez likes the civic center, hates the game - Silver Spring Penguin

By Jennifer Deseo on July 15, 2008

ROCKVILLE — The county council’s economic-development committee recommended additional funds for Silver Spring’s planned civic center, but not without dishing out a little grief.

“I’m just annoyed with the process,” council president and committee member Michael Knapp told his colleagues at their meeting Thursday. “We’re ten days into the new fiscal year, and already we’re being asked for $2.5 million.”

The District 2 Dem and his committee colleagues — Nancy Floreen and Marc Elrich, both at-large Dems — were miffed at the appropriation’s timing. Construction bids were received in mid March, but MoCo exec Ike Leggett’s request for the extra cash hit the council only last month. A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, and the construction bid expires Thursday.

“No one said, ‘Hey, this one might come in on the high side.’ ” Knapp complained.”The fact that we came up with bids that were higher [than anticipated] never came up.”

Elrich threw his two cents in and wondered why value engineering (read: designing on the cheap) didn’t trim the project’s budget. According to the council’s legislative analysis, value engineering trimmed 5,000 square feet of space from the building, which will sit along Ellsworth Drive between Fenton and Cedar streets.

That means no stage in the building’s great hall, and a community-use room that doubles as a conference room for Silver Spring’s regional center. Interior and exterior frou-frou have also been “simplified”, the analysis states.

“It’s less of a project,” Elrich said. “It’s shrunk in size and grown in price.”

Blame the higher price tag on the rising cost of, well, everything. Building materials like steel and copper, plus the gas needed to schlep the stuff into Silver Spring, have impacted the project’s overall cost, Don Sheuerman, of the new department of general services, testified.

And the hits are gonna keep on coming, warned council member Valerie Ervin (D-District 5), who attended the meeting. Expect higher-than-expected tabs for downtown Silver Spring’s other big public projects — the transit center and the new public library, she said.

“Let’s get a look at the numbers,” Knapp suggested, seeking to avoid being broadsided again. “I don’t want to back ourselves in a corner and just agree to everything that comes across the street” from the county exec’s office, he said.

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