Ground will be broken in late May or early June for the long-awaited Pine Bluff Aquatics Center.


At a joint meeting of the Pine Bluff City Council’s Public Works and Ways and Means Committees Tuesday in the mayor’s conference room, Dave Sadler with the Nelson Architectural Group said the project is finally ready to begin.


Jill Floyd, who represented CDI Construction Co. of Little Rock, explained that “because of the weather and the rain, we don’t want to start digging in the dirt. We’re looking at May or June to let the ground dry.”


The aquatics center evolved from a proposed multi-purpose center that was approved by voters in 2011 as a part of the so-called “Penny for Progress” sales tax, and while many of the other projects from tax proceeds have been completed, actual planning and fundraising for the center did not begin until 2015.


The sales tax funds were never planned to cover the entire cost of a multi-purpose facility, and fundraising efforts were not as successful as city officials had hoped. A decision was then made to primarily focus on the aquatics center, which will feature some meeting space.


Sadler said CDI Construction, which has served as project construction manager for the aquatics center, has submitted what he called a GMP, or guaranteed maximum price, of $11,230,135 to complete the center. A bulk of the money will come from the 2011 tax, while Go Forward Pine Bluff has pledged $4 million in private funds for the project.


Construction is expected to take 480 days.


“The clock for the work starts when ground is broken,” Mayor Shirley Washington said.


The 36,000 square foot building will be built near the Pine Bluff Convention Center and, according to Sadler, will feature an eight-lane 25-yard competition pool, a leisure pool with a waterslide, along with other amenities such as a water cannon, volleyball, water basketball and play structure.


There will also be youth and adult dressing and shower rooms, plus a separate family dressing area, concession and gift sales area, and a pool entrance patio.


Floyd, whose company recently completed a job at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said he is making an effort to find and employ local subcontractors, beginning with a database collected over 30 years in business. She said they also ran ads in the newspaper and on radio, held a public meeting and reached out by social media


Fifteen local contractors submitted a total of 17 bids, and Floyd said at this point, five of them were the lowest bidders, while there are one or two others that the company is working with. Thirty to 35 subcontractors are projected to be needed, but Sadler and others said many of them will be in specialized areas such as working on the swimming pools.


Also on Tuesday, Ronnine Dedman, who works for AT&T, told the joint committee that the company wants to upgrade its network lines in Pine Bluff.’


He said that because of devices like I-phones, cell phones, tablets, notebooks and the like, traffic on AT&T lines has increased 257 percent since 2007.


What the company wants to do, he said, is to place small cellular devices that will be linked to underground fiber optic lines in approximately 10 locations in the city, which he described as the “first wave” with other devices to follow later.


“We’re excited to bring this new technology to Pine Bluff,” Dedman said.


The devices can be placed on existing utility poles, light poles, and even on the side of buildings, he said.


He said the company is currently working with about 10 other cities in the state, including Little Rock, North Little Rock, Cabot, Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Jonesboro and Lowell.


Dedman provided the city with a draft ordinance but City Zoning Officer Lakeisha Hill said the city currently has an ordinance and the only thing that would be required would be to amend the existing ordinance. She and Dedman will work with City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott to draft an amended ordinance.