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New Shores Community Center coming along slowly

Photo: Indian River Shores Community Center construction.

The original timetable for completing the Indian River Shores Community Center was overly ambitious. The project was slated to be done in time for Election Day, so that the center could be used as a polling place. Now the hope is it will be open by Valentine’s Day.

Just to be safe, town officials are not booking any meetings, weddings or other functions into the facility until April 2019.

The new center will replace a donated 1,200-square-foot modular building that had been on the site since 1982. Its sagging floor was in need of repair, and could have eventually become a safety hazard and a major expense. The old structure was taken down in April.

A half-million dollars was budgeted for a modest 2,000-square-foot center, but after some debate over how large and elaborate a facility the town wanted and needed, the budget was upped to $800,000. Change orders have since added to that amount.

When completed, the center will span 2,995 square feet under air, plus have a large covered patio and covered driveway, for a total of 4,326 square feet, according to engineering reports and contract documents executed with project contractor Summit Construction.

Councilman Bob Auwaerter, who served on the town’s finance commission prior to being on the council, and who is known to keep a close eye on town expenses, says he’s satisfied with the plans the council settled on.

“It’s certainly not the Taj Mahal it’s been made out to be. We’re putting in a building that’s going to be good for us for the next 30 years and allow for a little growth in the community,” Auwaerter said.

Auwaerter said he was pleased the past week or so to see the walls start to go up after months of site preparation and foundation work.

“We hit a couple stumbles along the way, but overall I think it has been going OK. It’s been reasonable,” Auwaerter said. “I’ll admit I’m no construction expert, that’s beyond my pay grade, but think the process certainly has been transparent.”

Former vice mayor Jerry Weick does have experience dealing with construction projects, so he was put in charge of shepherding the effort from concept to completion. Weick lives in nearby Bermuda Bay and has been able to oversee progress firsthand.

“It’s going along just like we expected; I’m very happy with the construction,” Weick said. “Any time you build something, there are things that need to be tweaked.”

Several change orders have come back to the town, increasing costs by about $30,000, including nearly $12,000 for unanticipated tree removal. Two other expenses, for added tile in the bathrooms and a kitchen grease trap, Weick said, came about due to state health regulations that changed midway through the project.

“We did not know we were going to have to tile 5 feet up in the bathrooms, and the grease trap was needed due to new laws,” Weick said. “This came after the building was designed, [due to] changes in the Health Department codes. It needed to be done to comply.”

Weick said repurposing plumbing parts and nearly new sinks from the old center, plus finding some gently used lighting fixtures, has saved tens of thousands of dollars. “You have to be budget-conscious when spending the taxpayers’ money.”

Town officials say the center will give residents an option for hosting wedding receptions, anniversary parties and other events if they don’t belong to one of the island’s private clubs, or if club facilities are booked. Clubs, such as the bridge club, will be regular renters, using the center on their game and meeting day. 

Anyone wishing to book an event can do so through town hall.