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By ARTHUR L. MACK
MOBILE — Despite concerns about the cost, the Mobile City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a $9.66 million transfer from the city’s general fund to the capital improvement fund to pay for the Civic Center parking facility.
The original projected price for the project, a six-level parking facility with just over 1,000 parking spaces for the redevelopment of the Civic Center, was just over $30 million. However, White-Spunner Construction had the lowest bid of $38.16 million.
Wednesday’s action also authorized a contract with White-Spunner to construct the facility.
Some councilmembers were concerned about the transfer to pay for the cost overruns and wanted the item laid over for at least a week while others wanted to move ahead.
George Talbot, the vice president of external affairs for project consultant Volkert Inc., said the company and the administration will work together to identify cost savings.
“The key is keeping the project on schedule and on budget,” Talbot said.
Construction options, as presented by Volkert president Leon Barkan, included keeping the structure skinned all four sides, not building two elevators and reducing one level of 183 deck spaces. Those options would save between $1.38 million and $4.14 million.
Council President C.J. Small said the council understood the price could double in the next couple of years.
Councilmember Ben Reynolds offered an amendment using Volkert’s first option — to deduct three inches off the pre-cast panels, change the underground piping to PVC and change the sprinkler system — but the motion failed to get a second.
“If we don’t pay for it today, we might pay for it in the next five to 10 years,” Small said. “It’s cheaper to go ahead and pay for it today. I was very concerned about the cost because many areas east of I-65 need infrastructure improvements but on the other hand, downtown is the heartbeat of the city and if the heart is not beating, then it’s going to die.”
Talbot said the city would eventually generate revenue from the garage and said groundbreaking could take place by the end of the year.