Community center closer to reality

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 27, 1999

Renovation work on the city’s new community center inched a step closer to becoming a reality Monday.

In a hastily called meeting, the Natchez Board of Aldermen authorized the mayor and the project’s architect to finalize the contract later this week after negotiations to lower the contract price are complete.

Aldermen received bids earlier this month, but all were above the $500,000 aldermen allocated for the project to revamp the old Service Motor Company building on Franklin Street. The lowest bid was $561,232 by Scarborough Construction in Jackson.

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By Monday, Johnny Waycaster, one of the project architects, had negotiated the Scarborough’s price below $500,000 by changing specifications on the work. Waycaster and Natchez Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said they believe the price can be lowered further and hope to know how much by Thursday.

&uot;We’re not at a point to give a final price, but we know a general range,&uot; Waycaster said, adding that the figure should be well below $500,000.

Several areas were trimmed to lower the price, the most expensive of which was the sprinkler system originally bid for $27,500. New state building specifications don’t require the building to have such a system, Waycaster said.

&uot;We don’t think it’s necessary,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s a small building and it’s easy to get out of it. Structurally the building is steel trusses and concrete.&uot;

Some aldermen were concerned that omitting the sprinkler system may affect the insurance rates, but Waycaster said a sprinkler system could always be added later. And, as Alderman David Massey said, &uot;the building has to be smoke-free,&uot; referring to the city policy that prohibits smoking in all public buildings.

Aldermen called the special meeting in order to prevent further delays in construction. The city has already booked the building to the Natchez Literary Celebration for early June. Construction is expected to take about four months and should begin early next month.

Other cost-saving methods to date include:

— Having city crews remove some of the paving at the site instead of the construction company.

— Changing the type of garage doors used at the rear of the building.

— Not color staining the concrete floors. The floors will instead be finished, sealed concrete.

— Not treating the building for termites, which Waycaster said was not necessary because most of the wooden parts of the structure will be removed in the renovation.

— Switching to a more economical type of ceiling tile in the bathrooms.