Cost of park could grow by $2 million

Officials say inflation, redesign, additional parking fuel increase

Lighted fields considered

Deficit could delay facility's completion

public meeting Jan. 10

January 03, 2001|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Before the 160-acre Western Regional Park is completed this decade, Howard County likely will have to spend more than $2 million more than the $7.8 million predicted for the project, county recreation officials say.

The extra money won't be needed until 2004 at the earliest, recreation Director Gary J. Arthur said, and is partly the result of a redesign to add more playing fields and parking, and partly from inflation.

A public meeting on the latest version of the park's design - which could include lighted playing fields - is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Circle D recreational facility in Glenwood.

Like new school buildings that are expected to cost $8 million more next year because of inflation, Arthur said, recreation projects are seeing a similar 16 percent to 25 percent increase in projected costs because of the demand for skilled construction workers and materials. That might mean a delay in finishing work on the park's final phase, scheduled for completion in late 2003.

That final phase, or Phase III, is a multipurpose building that includes a community center and a long-awaited senior center, which County Executive James N. Robey has promised western county residents will be built.

Robey said, "Right now, as far as I'm concerned, everything is still on schedule." Inflation, he said, "is certainly a concern. We've seen a lot of projects coming in over bid."

Western Regional Park in Glenwood was the subject of a controversy last winter because western county residents and business owners feared some planned facilities - a small amphitheater, large picnic pavilions and a 12-acre lake - would draw loud crowds and heavy traffic. As a result, the county scaled back plans, eliminating those features and adding more ball fields.

But Arthur said that the five to seven additional fields now planned are expensive to build and irrigate. Each one requires dozens more parking spaces to allow room for those using the fields and for families arriving for the next scheduled game.

All the fields and parking are part of Phase I for the park, which is under design, Arthur said. Work is scheduled to begin on the site, at Route 97 and Carrs Mill Road, in September, he said.

Phase II includes two miles of pathways circling the park, tennis courts, basketball courts and a covered roller hockey rink.

The county has approved $2.2 million for the park, and Arthur is asking for an additional $2.6 million in the budget year that starts July 1. Robey will consider that as part of his capital budget, to be presented to the County Council about April 1. The council then can make changes before adopting a final budget by June 1.

Currently, the extended capital budget calls for an additional $1.8 million in fiscal 2003 and $1.3 million in fiscal 2004.

Arthur estimates it will take at least $2 million, if not more, beyond that to finish the park. "I'm going to have to get more funding," he said.

Arthur said he is re-examining the possibility of installing lighted fields at the park, something sports advocates mentioned at a recent meeting of a citizens advisory group that is consulting with the county on the park.

County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a western county Republican who represents the area and meets with the committee, said he, too, believes considering lights is worthwhile.

"We all agreed we should talk about it," he said, noting that he hasn't taken a position on the lighting but wants to see what nearby residents think.

Lights "would certainly help the fields to be used more often for kids," Arthur said, explaining that adults' being able to use the fields in the evenings would allow more time for kids during the day.

Arthur said lighting technology has made great strides in recent years, and low-density lights with beams directed straight down would not annoy neighbors.

As for the senior citizens, Kittleman said, "there's no question they'll get their senior center."

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