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City tables request to fund shooting range cost overruns


Nathan Gregory



Columbus councilmen will take more time to consider how cost overruns for the Columbus Air Force Base shooting range can be resolved. 


The Golden Triangle Development LINK received a $1.365 million grant for construction of the facility on the condition that Lowndes County and the city of Columbus match 20 percent of that amount.  


Initially, the county and city agreed to meets those obligations through "in-kind" services and land donations, which included using in-house manpower and equipment for dirt work required for the project. After a meeting between city and county leaders, however, it was determined that the manpower and equipment needed to construct a backstop to re-direct bullets was not feasible because it would compromise the ability to meet the demands the county and city already are committed to meet. 


City engineering consultant Kevin Stafford, who has been working with engineering firm Pryor and Morrow on this project, said the estimated budget for dirt work to be done by a third party was $200,000 in cash. County supervisors agreed last week to solicit bids for its $100,000 portion of that amount. It also approved to pay its half of $92,000 in cost overruns after the lowest base bid for the bullet trap and building was $1.082 million. The original estimate for that part of the project was $990,000. 


All told, the city and county would each be on the hook for an un-budgeted $146,000 in cash for the project.  


Stafford said what each entity pays for dirt work still goes toward its match, but in the form of a cash outlay instead of in-kind services. 


"You're going to have to buy the dirt one way or other," Stafford said. "The dirt the county was going to buy was going to be $1.75 a yard. I've already talked to a contractor that will be bidding this job and he said he can get it for less than a dollar. With the equipment wear and manpower that you're giving up with this, I think you're going to save money going this route anyhow. The difference is it's a cash outlay that wasn't budgeted." 


Mayor Robert Smith asked Stafford why the county chose not to re-bid the project. Stafford said the project has been scaled back as much as it can be from what CAFB personnel wanted in preliminary discussions. Also, Stafford added, the project has a completion deadline of October 22 and a re-bid may compromise the work getting done by that date. 


Councilman Bill Gavin said everything that can be done to cater to CAFB's request. The next round of Base Realignment and Closure cuts looms in the next few years, Gavin said, and if CAFB considers the range a priority that would help it survive the next round of base cuts, the community needs to throw in all its support. 


"I don't like to spend money," Gavin said. "I think everybody knows that, but this is Columbus Air Force Base and they are a big part of this city. With BRAC realignment coming up, this is what they feel like is one thing in their favor to keep that base open. Even though it's a lot of money, I'm in favor of doing it." 


Councilman Charlie Box mentioned the elongated cleanup process from last week's severe weather and said that has to be the priority for city forces until that job is complete. 


"I think we need to go back to the base and just tell them how bad we want to do it, but we don't have $200,000 right now," Box said. "We think we'll be made whole by FEMA, but there's going to be some additional cost. I don't want to back out on the deal, but we need to be realistic about this." 


He then asked Stafford if the Columbus National Guard could be contacted and asked to assist with dirt work. Stafford said the request could be considered. Councilman Kabir Karriem then made a motion to table overage funding requests. 


"Due to matters that are out of our control, how the deal started and where we are right now is two different things," Karriem said. "I would like to sit back down ... and see where we are, what we can do and really look at the project."


Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.



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