The Dunwoody Nature Center is asking the City Council for another $200,000 for construction of a pavilion in Dunwoody Park after construction estimates came in much higher than expected.
That’s on top of $200,000 the Nature Center already received.
Executive Director Alan Mothner told council members at the Aug. 14 meeting that a cost estimate to build the approximately 1,800-square-foot-pavilion came in at $550,000 — much higher than the original 2016 estimate of roughly $300,000.
The Nature Center, which operates on the city-owned park, is also putting $150,000 of its savings toward construction of the pavilion that Mothner said is needed to allow for more programming, including Boy Scout and Girl Scout troop meetings and school field trips. Opportunities for renting the facility out for corporate events also would be available.
Mothner said the Nature Center’s space now is so limited that when there is inclement weather, there is nowhere to put visitors. The pavilion, which will be enclosed in glass and built on the hill overlooking the center’s meadow, will provide that much needed space, he said.
In April, the city awarded the Nature Center a $200,000 Facilities Improvement Partnership Program grant, which was $105,000 less than requested. That money is to be used to build the pavilion.
City Council officials chided the Nature Center earlier this year for not putting any money toward the construction project itself, and Mothner said that led the board to vote to take $150,000 out of its savings for the project.
So the $200,000 from the grant plus the $150,000 from the Nature Center totals only $350,000 – leading the Nature Center to ask the city for the additional $200,000.
Construction costs are rapidly rising, Mothner said. He noted the increase last month in project costs to build an open field at Murphey Candler Park in Brookhaven — an original estimate put the cost at $136,400, but the bid came in at close to $600,000.
The city’s budget committee is expected to meet in early September and come to the full council in October with a proposed 2018 budget as well as any amendments to this year’s budget, Finance Director Chris Pike said. Allocating an additional $200,000 to the Nature Center could be discussed during that process, he explained.
Councilmembers agreed to have the request go to the Budget Committee for discussion and then be discussed by the council.
Mothner has said the Nature Center would like to begin construction of the pavilion in September and complete it by March 2018. He has also said estimates show the new pavilion would bring in more than $61,000 a year in additional revenue to the Nature Center.
Mothner said it could be feasible to have the pavilion built by next spring with the council waiting until October to vote on funding. But, he added, with construction costs rising rapidly it would be better to move sooner than later.
“Costs are rising 50 percent across the board,” he said. “There is an inherent risk in waiting.”
Mayor Denis Shortal pointed out this year has been tough, with the city’s new baseball fields coming in nearly $2 million over budget and the new City Hall renovations also costing more than anticipated.
“It’s been a hectic year,” he said.
The Nature Center also is planning a $2.6 million capital campaign.
The city also recently formed a Public Authorities Facility that would allow the Nature Center to enter into long-term leases with the facility rather than only being able to enter into year-to-year leases with the City Council. By doing so, the Nature Center’s opportunities for obtaining significant grants is greatly improved, Mothner said. The lease agreements with the Public Authorities Facility are still being worked out, he said.