July 14, 2004
The orchestra could be without chairs and music stands.
A theater might not have any seats for the audience.
And the center’s two green rooms, where actors go to relax before appearing on stage, might not have furniture at all.
As things stand right now, the Mesa Arts Center may open next year without some pretty basic things that arts centers need.
With nearly eight months of work to go on the city’s arts center, Mesa has nearly depleted the contingency fund that pays unexpected construction costs.
This week, to replenish the fund, the city dipped into money set aside for other things at the arts center.
Officials took $200,000 from the furniture budget, and $550,000 from a fund for unexpected costs not related to construction. The City Council approved the transfer Monday.
Officials avoided going over budget by shifting money.
"This is a calculated move to make sure we have money to finish this thing," said Robert Mathews of PMA Consultants, who is overseeing construction.
But the solution has created a new problem.
"We can’t open without these things," said Gerry Fathauer, the arts and cultural director for Mesa. "But we had to put something on a list."
Fathauer said she picked furnishing that could be bought last.
Most of the furnishings are for the art center’s four theaters, which aren’t scheduled to open until September 2005.
Art classes are scheduled to begin in the spring.
The idea is not to eliminate the furniture, just defer buying it until later, Mathews said.
In the meantime, city officials are exploring ways to get the money.
No one is certain how, though.
One possibility is to take the money out of the arts center’s operating budget, Mathews said.
He also said there is an outside chance they won’t need the money for construction.
Officials say another option is the Friends of Mesa Arts Center.
The group has gathered $4.7 million in private pledges to help with construction of the arts center. About $3.7 million is needed to finish construction on some of the theaters.
Joanie Flatt, a longtime proponent of the arts center and member of the group, said Tuesday that using the money for music stands and other furnishings is possible. The project’s design committee will look at the issue when it meets in August, she said.
No one was surprised the contingency fund wasn’t enough.
"There’s no other project like it in the United States," said Flatt, who was on the design committee. It combines visual arts, performing arts, arts education, and large expanses of open space on one campus, she said. There is no precedent to gauge how much everything will cost."
"The level of effort going into this thing is extraordinary," Mathews said.
The city set the contingency at 5 percent of the construction bid, or $3.6 million. The city’s construction estimate is about $73 million. Not included in the estimate is about $21 million for land, equipment and fees for the project’s architect and construction manager. The city’s approved budget for the project is $90.8 million. The overall budget of $94.5 million includes $3.7 million in private funds.
Mesa routinely allocates 10 percent for contingency for most projects.
Keith Nath, the city engineer, said a 5 percent contingency is normal for large projects.