Headline: Council committee recommends approval of hiring contractor for Merrill Center renovations

Byline: By Ray King of The Commercial Staff

A committee of the Pine Bluff City Council voted last week to recommend that the full council approve hiring a contractor to renovate the Merrill Center.

The Public Works Committee, Council members Glen Brown Jr., Win Trafford and Steven Mays heard a report from architect Fred Reed, who was hired in July 2018 to work on designing the renovations.

Reed said a plan for the work that will fit the budget includes work on the community center part of the building and the boxing gym, but not the basketball court and gym area, which will be done by the city’s Economic and Community Development Department using funds they have on hand.

The plan calls for upgrades to the kitchen area and since the building was originally a boys club, the addition of women’s and ADA compliant restrooms, as well as new flooring and new paint. Renovations to the boxing gym will include upgraded and ADA compliant restrooms and renovations to the coaches offices. Work in both areas will also include the installation of energy saving LED lights as well as work on the heating and air conditioning systems.

In October 2018, State Farm awarded a $25,000 grant to Go Forward Pine Bluff which had applied for the grant to renovate the kitchen at the Merrill Center. Those funds will be used for commercial kitchen appliances, cabinets and other necessary amenities.

The total cost of the renovations was put at $876,581 which included a low bid from Flynco, a Little Rock based company who submitted the low bid of $778,000 for work on the main building and boxing gym. A low bid of $25,741 was submitted by Environmental Protection Associates for asbestos removal. An additional almost $73,000 ($72,840) is included for fees, advertising, and miscellaneous costs.

Reed said the low bidder is a “family type of business that has been around for many years.”

The current plans do not include renovations to the main entrance canopy or entry ways connecting the boxing gym to the rest of the building, which Reed said would cost about another $110,000. Also not addressed was the entry way into the boxing club.

Brown, who is chairman of the committee said he would like to a way to connect the two sides of the building, the center itself and the boxing gym but Mayor Shirley Washington said Merrill Center programs and the boxing club operate as two separate programs and there is no interaction back and forth between the two.

Renovations are expected to take about seven months once they begin, and activities at the center will be shifted to Greenville School while the work s going on.