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Spanish Fork Life Center: Too big, too expensive

Oct 06, 2015 08:30AM

The Life Center would be absolutely amazing and would be a great gathering place for the community.

However, that is simply not the point. The real issue is that this Life Center as it currently proposed is too large and overpriced for our community. I have done some research on similar facilities in a number of cities. The one that is closest to our Life Center description is the one in Southlake, Texas. It is under construction and will be completed in 2016. It is 104,000 square feet and the original cost estimate based on the brsarch.com was $30 million. The description reads: “Programmatic components include a recreation center, senior center, aquatic center, public library, public meeting spaces, community services department administrative office space and building support areas.” That description sounds a lot like what is being proposed here in Spanish Fork with the Life Center.

Please see www.brsarch.com/projects/southlake-community-recreation-center as the source for this description and cost. 

The good news is that we have the opportunity with the Southlake, Texas, project to see the original estimate and now the actual costs after the project has begun. (http://www.cityofsouthlake.com/index.aspx?NID=1345) Upon closer inspection, the cost for the Southlake site is actually $46 million. That is much higher than the original estimate. Let’s take a closer look, however. The first phase at $15 million was completely paid for by the reserves that the city of Southlake had been saving since 2009. The second phase at $31 million will be completely paid for by a reallocation of existing taxes that they have (no new taxes). Spanish Fork City does not have the resources to do the same thing for the Life Center. In fact, Spanish Fork needs to increase residential property taxes by 15 percent and business property taxes even higher. Using the original estimate for SouthLake, I will illustrate why the Life Center bond is a very bad idea for Spanish Fork residents.

The community in Southlake, Texas, happens to be in the 20 top most affluent neighborhoods in the US. In 2013, the median home value in this community was $523,960. The average household income was $173,079. So here we have a community that can easily afford a facility like this and they have a good-sized facility at 104,000 square feet with a cost per square foot at $288.

Now we come to the proposed Life Center for Spanish Fork: 144,000 square feet, $44 million (includes a $4 million down payment) with a cost per square foot at a whopping $306. But hold on, everyone. Spanish Fork, with its 38,000 residents, had an average home value of $193,226 in 2013 and a median household income at $63,029. What is being proposed for Spanish Fork is almost 30 percent bigger and 25 percent more expensive than a similar facility in one of the most affluent zip codes in the country.

Let’s vote no to this proposed facility/bond and then come back together with all of the awesome ideas and put together a Life Center proposal next year that is much more affordable and smaller for our resourceful and conservative community.

By this time next year, contractors should not be quite as expensive since according to the public hearing, part of the high cost is that it is difficult to get contractors because everyone is building and very few large construction firms are hiring because they are not sure if the economy will sustain the growth. If we wait a year and get a smaller proposal that will allow more time for contractors to gear up, then the new Life Center on a smaller scale could be completed by 2018 (same schedule as the currently proposed Life Center) and at a much lower cost. That should also reduce the operating costs as well.

Our community is too wise and frugal to proceed with something like the currently proposed Life Center.

Hugh Black Spanish Fork