Last night, the Pensacola City Council overwhelmingly told Mayor Ashton Hayward not to spend more than $8.25 million on the new Bayview Community Center. The vote came after an hour and forty-five minute debate during which City Administrator Eric Olson, Chief Financial Officer Dick Barker and Park & Recreation Director Brian Cooper tried to convince three council members to side with Councilman Larry Johnson in favor of spending $9.59 million on a facility was originally budgeted to cost $6.05 million.
Mayor Hayward did not attend the meeting to defend the proposed community center.
Olson argued the funding was available for the $9.59-million contract, and it would not affect city programs.
Barker denied he deceived anyone. He told the council the budget had changed to $8.25 million at January 2017. [Both council members who attended that workshop expressed objections]. The CFO said that the request of bids wasn’t advertised to allow the city to negotiate with the lowest bidder to reduce cost. It must be rebid. [Why wouldn’t the city have a negotiation clause in the bid, especially in this environment of rising construction costs?]
The final vote was 6-1 to keep the project’s budget at $8.25 million
Earlier in the day, the Escambia Board of County Commissioners said it was not willing to sign a letter of intent to with Pensacola Arena Development Partners to build its new arena. Jay Patel of PADP told the BCC that he needed unanimous approval to help his Triumph application for the project. It was clear he didn’t have all five commission votes.
The $80-million project has been dependent on receiving $20 million of New Market Tax Credits and $25 million from Triumph – both sources appear to be in doubt. The two downtown sites proposed initially don’t qualify for the tax credits. The Triumph board has shown little interest in the sports arenas.