BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
Last year, when we held the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee meeting at the Old Armory in Mena, I advised Arkansas State Parks that it was my intention to call for another committee meeting at Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge this month. This week, I decided not to proceed with the meeting request. Committee meetings outside of the Capitol are quite expensive to convene and despite the disappointing lack of activity for more than 2 years, I believe all parties involved have given the project their best efforts over the last several months. I believe that they’re now doing everything feasibly possible to get the lodge open. A committee meeting at this point of the project would just be a waste of taxpayer funds. I want to make one thing perfectly clear. This lodge closed on March 5th, 2012 and was supposed to be completed in 2013. It is inexcusable that our region has now been without one of our major economic engines for nearly 3 years. There has been gross mismanagement, a lack of urgency and a myriad of incompetence since this project began. I am not at all happy with how this project has been handled on multiple levels and will seek a complete accounting when the project is completed. For now, my focus will continue to be on getting the facility reopened to the public. At this time, I’d like to share the most recent update I received from the Director of Arkansas State Parks.
“As it’s been a while since our last update and with the details worked out on the kitchen renovation plan, we have a revised estimated completion date for the project.
When we entered into the takeover agreement with Travelers Insurance (Travelers), the estimated completion date was November 30, 2014. We knew that date could change, based on the unknowns that might be encountered during the mold abatement process and the time required to complete it. Due to improper installation of the building’s vapor barrier (Tyvek) by Wade Abernathy, Inc. (WAI), which caused a voiding of the window warranty, along with the vapor barrier’s deteriorated condition, Nabholz Construction Services (NCS) had to replace the Tyvek and windows in order to comply with the construction contract warranty. This extended the contract work several weeks and was a primary step required to undertake closing in the building for commencing the mold remediation work. Additional mold remediation treatments were required, including completing the second floor ceilings, in order for the building to pass the mold tests set forth in the abatement plan. This also added days to the contract.
Based on the above unforeseen conditions and the additional mold remediation work that also required more time, the November 30, 2014 completion date was not possible. At our August 7, 2014 teleconference/meeting with all concerned at the Attorney General’s Office, NCS reported their revised completion date was approximately February 7, 2015. As funding was not available to renovate the kitchen at the time the original contract was awarded to WAI, my staff noted it was time to reconsider the priority of remodeling the kitchen (to include replacing deteriorated equipment and reorganizing the kitchen floor plan, flipping the dishwashing area with the food preparation area to improve efficiency and customer service). Travelers, NCS, ADPT, our architect Robin Borne, SPRTC Commissioner Bill Barnes, Rep. Nate Bell, and others met at the lodge on September 12, 2014 to review the project’s process and the kitchen remodeling proposal.
With the kitchen remodel added, the revised estimated construction completion date is April 27, 2015. Once we have a substantial completion date from NCS, which will allow ADPT to occupy all interior spaces, we will be prepared to open to the public 60 days from that date. That puts an opening in late June, or sooner if the substantial completion date is earlier. We will work with Travelers/NCS to expedite a partial substantial completion date for the lodge rooms (based on their original estimate of February 7th), that will allow us to store lodge room furnishings that are scheduled to arrive in February 2015.
Our plans are to hold a media day in advance of opening, along with inviting area officials, legislators, etc. for a tour and meal. We also plan an official public re-dedication ceremony during the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission’s July 15-16, 2015 meeting.”
Previous stories on this topic:Queen’s Facelift Nearing Final Phases 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