Your View: Patrick Henry cost increases need more scrutiny

Your View: Patrick Henry cost increases need more scrutiny

By Mary Biegel, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
In response to your March 31 article on the Patrick Henry Recreation Center budget (“Patrick Henry rec center project faces more uncertainty”), I too have observed that the finances required are growing. I am a neighbor of Patrick Henry School and a member of the advisory group.

I have been following this project closely and question the need for a larger budget, especially since this is supposed to be a “neighborhood” recreation center. Last year when city council selected the design, it was within budget, but recently requests have been made for additional funding — $2.2 million for an artificial turf field and an outdoor fitness circuit and a possible $1 million for the indoor facility.

Together, this is almost a 50 percent increase over the current budget of $6.8 million. Do these increases mean that this project will no longer “be constructible within the capital project budget?”

Some statements made by officials about the project were inaccurate, particularly the statement that the project’s budget had not been updated in many years. The Patrick Henry 2015 feasibility study includes very detailed line-by-line cost projections.

Also, the budget for the facility has already increased. This increase from $6.1 million in fiscal 2012 to $6.8 million in fiscal 2016 was “to account for inflation associated with an updated project timeline, project management costs and a sufficient project contingency,” according to a city staff member, not to change the size of the project.

I believe these inconsistencies raise the question of why these additional funds are needed, especially during a time when our city’s budget is tight. The Patrick Henry Recreation Center is supposed to be a neighborhood center and should be geared to “accommodating the recreational needs of the immediate Patrick Henry community,” as stated in the planning team’s own presentation material.

Anything larger is not appropriate in a residential neighborhood and is an unnecessary expense.