BY LEANN DILBECK –
Welcomed news to the local economy is that the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge renovation project is progressing with an expected “phased opening” in mid-spring of 2015. Arkansas Travel Commissioner Bill Barnes told The Pulse that pre-marketing plans are already being implemented.
A $7.4 million project that has been plagued with delays, even being brought to a standstill, following the termination of the original contractor since its closure in March 2012 is now within a few short months of once again opening up its doors to welcome guests and tourists atop Arkansas’ second highest peak.
Barnes commended the work of Representative Nate Bell, who was instrumental in bringing necessary parties together to streamline the construction process once the bond was called, and is grateful that all the parties are working very well together now.
Bell said that the mold remediation process was completed in August and that since that point the project has been moving along “pretty well.” Bell along with other officials met at the site in mid-September and he said, “It was clear that finally getting the ‘all-clear’ on the mold issues was a turning point. There were close to 40 construction workers on-site and the lodge was a beehive of activity.”
As Barnes explained, the bonding company has been much more cooperative, even designating a representative that is on-site a majority of the time. “He is very knowledgeable of construction and has the authority to make decisions quickly regarding change orders and that has expedited the process exponentially.”
The original renovation project plans called for much of the existing kitchen equipment to be re-used but officials learned that the equipment had not been properly protected from the weather, being virtually ruined, and as Barnes explained would have resulted in constant equipment failures. He also explained that the kitchen design, including the equipment, was reflective of the 1970’s and not as efficient as much of today’s designs. Bell added that the plans had left the food prep and dishwashing areas essentially unchanged and the setup was backwards of what was needed for efficient workflow. State Parks made what Barnes deemed as “the only right decision” to upgrade the kitchen for much better traffic flow, creating “an opportunity to do a much better job with food and beverage service.”
Bell continues to stay in close contact with officials regarding the project that he knows is vital to District 20’s economy, “I spoke with both Richard Davies and Greg Butts this week about the project and they believe that everything is proceeding at the most rapid pace possible.”
Officials anticipate a “phased-opening” with the lodge opening due to the kitchen upgrade. Bell said that the facility is currently scheduled for turnover to the state on February 9, 2015 and officials will be able to begin moving in furniture, hiring, training, etc. to be able to open in its full capacity by late Spring.
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Previous stories on this topic:State Parks Commission Requesting Department of Insurance to Launch Investigation… State Legislators Glad to See Queen Wilhelmina Project Moving Forward Economic Impact Numbers Released from Queen Wilhelmina Delay State Parks Announces New Contractor and Completion Date on Queen Wilhelmina Renovation State Parks Being Called to Appear Before the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee Queen Wilhelmina Remodel Remains at a Standstill