Construction work on the Townsend Park baseball field is expected to begin soon, with the goal of it being ready for the public by spring 2015.

Construction work on the Townsend Park baseball field is expected to begin soon, with the goal of it being ready for the public by spring 2015.

ETC Engineers and Architects Inc. of Little Rock President Mizan Rahman briefed members of the Pine Bluff bond project task force Tuesday on the Townsend project and the progress of the Saracen Landing splash park. Economic and Community Development Department Director Larry Matthews provided further details, including the projected completion date.

Concerning Townsend Park, Rahman said, "We have three different contracts for work on the ball field and concession stand, the lighting and the lighting installation. All three contracts are drawn up and ready to sign. We should be able to have three pre-construction meetings with the contractors concurrently and then they will have 10 days to start work."

Matthews said that Gerald Prince Construction Inc. of Bryant is building the baseball field complex and concession stand for $698,000; Musco Lighting is providing the outfield lights and support equipment for $137,188; and Centech Services Inc. of Little Rock is installing the lighting for $53,671.

"I will be presenting the contracts to the mayor for her signature tomorrow and we hope to have the pre-construction meeting with the contractors Thursday," Matthews said. "At that point we will give Gerald Prince a 10-day notice to proceed."

Matthews said that in total, three ball fields will be constructed.

"We are going to have two Little League fields with one designated for T-ball," Matthews said. "The third field will be for Junior Babe Ruth, which is the equivalent of a high school ball field. Lights will go up on the Little League field for older kids and the Junior Babe Ruth field."

Matthews said that an integrated sprinkler system will keep the fields watered.

"There will be a concession stand, a restroom and a mechanical room," Matthews said.

Rahman said that the first priority once work begins will be the preparation and sodding of the ball field itself.

"We need to get the dirt work done and get the grass planted right away," Rahman said. "It is important that it have time to grow for several months before the cold weather begins. It would have been better to plant the grass several months ago, but we should have enough warm weather left this year."

Rahman said wet weather this year prevented the work from beginning sooner.

Rahman said that the Saracen Landing splash park remains on schedule.

"The contractor is starting the footing work today," Rahman said.

Parks and Recreation Department Director April Layher said that the dirt work at the site is ongoing.

Matthews said that the contractor is aiming for a Labor Day completion date.

"They got started late because of the wet spring, so I expect that he will use the rain days that he has accumulated to push back the completion date," Matthews said. "The $678,000 project will include restrooms and changing facilities to complement the children’s splash part itself."

Matthews said that the splash park is expected to open Memorial Day weekend 2015.

Rahman said that the splash park should be completed this fall with an expected opening date in the late spring of 2015.

Layher provided an update on the restrooms at Regional Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

"They can be formally opened at this time," Layher said. "There is just some cosmetic and outdoor work left to complete."

The contractor for the restroom project — JMJ General Contractors LLC of Bryant — was removed by the city in June for failing to maintain satisfactory progress.

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth asked if a portion of the contractor’s fee could be withheld to help pay for the unfinished work.

Matthews said the contractor has been paid half of the total contract amount of $137,260.

"We have dirt work on the outside of the buildings that still needs to be done," Layher said. "We don’t have a final cost estimate yet on what is left to be done."

Rahman said that the funds should not be held up for too long.

"The subcontractors on that project have not been paid yet," Rahman said. "They did a lot of the work."

"We need to know exactly how much is needed to finish the work before any more funds on that project are released," Hollingsworth said.

Matthews said that Kevin Smith with the Parks Department solicited bids for the automatic locks that will go on the restroom doors.

"The lowest bid was $800 per pair of locks," Matthews said. "We will need two pair. Because they were not in the original contract, the city council will need to approve the purchase."

Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell said that his department will need $45,000 to finish work at Fire Station No. 3, including the installation of a sprinkler system.

In addition to Hollingsworth, Rahman, Matthews, Howell and Layher, the meeting included Finance Director Steve Miller, Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks, Animal Control Director Lt. Michael Jenkins, Chief Zoning Inspector Mitzi Ruth and Southeast Arkansas Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Larry Reynolds.