The city of Fort Oglethorpe has been working for months on a renovation project of the old gymnasium on Second Street and recently struck a deal with Catoosa County to assume responsibility for the refurbished facility.
Nearly five months after awarding the bid for the renovations of the gym, the city approved change orders for some of the work during its Oct. 23 City Council meeting, and then an intergovernmental agreement for the city to take over the day-to-day operations was approved by the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 7.
Fort Oglethorpe awarded a low bid of $611,000 to Robert Roberts LLC of Chattanooga, Tenn., on June 12.
The bid included a 150-day timetable for completion, with the hopes of having it open by mid December, in time for basketball season.
The recent change orders that were unanimously approved Oct. 23, included 10 total adjustments in the amount of $58,158, but Public Works and Recreation Director Jeff Long says that that should be the final changes needed before the building can open.
"There were some unknowns, and once we got in there, there are some changes that need to be made...there used to be a machine shop in there, so there's been some issues." Long said. "We don't foresee anymore, or very few more changes needing to be made," Long said.
During that meeting, the council also approved an additional $34,121.01 for gym equipment for the facility. Long says that amount will be used for portable basketball goals, bleachers, scorer's tables, and benches for the teams.
"Basically it's for everything needed there for the games to be held," Long said. "The Fort Oglethorpe Recreation Association has said that they would put $10,000 toward the purchase of the equipment, so we'll be reimbursed...so it'll actually be $24,000 out of our city funds."
Two weeks later, on Nov. 7, County Attorney Chad Young explained that the county owns the building and that it will continue to do so for tax purposes, but that Fort Oglethorpe will handle the facility per the intergovernmental agreement.
"From the 2009 SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), there was $480,000 allocated to recreation capital improvement projects in the city of Fort Oglethorpe," Young said. "Those funds along with funds allocated from the city budget have been used to acquire the property and to build the gym facility that is prepared to open soon in the city."
Young explained that because the SPLOST funds are acquired through the county, the county has to maintain official ownership even if Fort Oglethorpe runs the facility.
"The SPLOST tax is a county tax, so there are some legal limitations on how ownership of the property has to work...since it's acquired with county tax, the actual title of the property has to remain with the county," Young said. "However, it is a facility that will be used by the city for city recreation programs. So, the intergovernmental agreement essentially provides that the county will retain ownership of the gym and the property, but that the city will be responsible for all the expenses and cost of maintaining the gym, insurance on the gym, and they will be responsible for all the operations. The county will retain ownership as required, but we're essentially turning the gym over to the city of Fort Oglethorpe."
With all the legalities worked out, Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins says the gym is still on schedule to open in December.
"The gymnasium is coming along nicely," Payne-Simpkins said. "We have flooring to be installed, and the final walk is scheduled for Dec. 10."