Funds Sought For Exterior Civic Center Improvements

SALISBURY – County officials are looking to utilize more than $400,000 in project savings to make exterior improvements at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.

Last week, Recreation, Parks and Tourism Director Steve Miller and the Wicomico County Council met in a work session to discuss the reallocation of leftover funds from a project at the Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

“I’m here this morning to talk about a request to repurpose funds from an existing project that took place at Perdue Stadium,” Miller said, “and to repurpose those funds to address some issues at the exterior of the Civic Center.”

Miller told the council the county had provided $700,000 in fiscal year 2018 to replace the flat roof at the stadium. The project, however, came in under budget by $410,558.

“The estimate for that project was derived from a study that was done by Stafford Consulting in 2015,” he said. “The good news is that project came in significantly under budget, to the tune of about $400,000 … The project has been completed, we waited a fair amount of time, and the roof itself is performing to every expectation we have. So we have a surplus of funds from that project.”

Miller said he realized the need for exterior improvements at the Civic Center shortly after ticket holders arrived for a “Jersey Boys” production in late March. He said event goers were stranded outside for hours with little communication while staff inside tried to address an incident that ultimately cancelled the concert.

“One of the things that it exposed was the lack of capability for us to communicate on the exterior of the building in efficient ways …,” he said. “So what we’re proposing, if we are able to repurpose those funds, is we would try to focus the repurposing in three primary areas.”

He said the funds would be used to install an exterior public address system and replace the outdated marquee sign.

“It’s hard to update and doesn’t update in real time,” he said. “That limits our ability to communicate with people, not only to promote events but also to communicate to folks if we have a delay or situation where you wanted to communicate with a video or real-time messaging. We don’t have that right now.”

Miller added the money would also be used to address longstanding security issues at the Civic Center.

“We would like to address additional security measures outside the Civic Center,” he said, “things like planters and bollards, things that would make it more difficult for vehicular traffic to address the front of the building or lobby where folks are. It’s far too easy for people to access right now.”

While he supported Miller’s plans, Council President John Cannon questioned how the consulting firm overestimated the cost of the roof project.

“I was curious how the original funding request that came in could have been so astronomically overestimated,” he said. “It was 40% overestimated.”

Miller said he asked the county for $700,000 based on the results of the report.

“We had received a report from Stafford Consulting in 2015 that did an assessment of both the Civic Center and the roof at Perdue Stadium,” he said. “At the time, their estimates to replace the roof at Perdue Stadium was $630,000. So thinking that it was a few years old, we asked for $700,000. Obviously, they overshot that, but that’s where our estimate came from.”

Miller said he was requesting the council’s permission to reallocate the funds to Civic Center improvements. But Cannon questioned if the county’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) could be amended to include the reallocation.

“Is it something that should be reworked in the CIP?” he said.

Assistant Director of Administration Weston Young noted a CIP amendment would require an advertisement and public hearing, which takes time.

“If the improvements are not immediate, we could add it to the CIP,” he said.

Cannon said he would rather see the county take that process.

“It’s just a process,” he said. “It has to go through the legislative process anyway. I just ask that you rethink it before it comes back to the table.”

Miller agreed.

“We are happy to do anything,” he said. “At the end of the day, we just want the projects to get done. It benefits the Civic Center.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.