Contractor chosen for Pioneer Park, scope being reduced

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 24, 2019

UTICA  — The planned date for Utica’s new park — Pioneer Park — to be built, which includes the city’s first dog park, is quickly approaching and the city has big plans for it; however, some minor changes were made to the plan to make the costs more palatable for the city’s budget.

The Utica City Council awarded the contract to build the new park in April to Cross Renovations Inc. at a cost of $900,351.50, but has been working with the company to lower the costs.

To reduce some of the costs, the city will be doing a lot of the work in-house.

Officials are trying to speed up the details of what will need to be changed, because construction season is in full swing.

At the city’s June 11 meeting, Sal Conigliaro, who works for Hubbell, Roth and Clark, Utica’s engineering firm, updated the changes that will be made.

He explained that the city is not obligated to keep all the items that the construction company bid on and that the city can still change things around.

“We looked at the plans and what’s most important for the park; what we can cut; where we can reduce and still have a viable park that is useful for the residents of Utica,” said Conigliaro.

He said that they will be reducing the land of the park by 50% north of fencing from 8.5 acres to 5 acres. He also said the loop that was planned to go around the park that cut off the north part of the development will be eliminated and will be left as vegetation.

They will be keeping the fencing and bathrooms; however, the park lighting will be eliminated, though the dog park area and bathrooms will have some lighting. Paving from Hahn Street will be kept, but the parking lot will be smaller.

The park will have no sign as of now.

The cost of the park came down from $900,351.50 back in March to $550,151.50 with Cross Renovations, which is a cost that is $75,000 less than the city’s budget. The rest of the budget will be used for engineering and other projects.

“Any dollars left over after that, after all that is paid, then we could then consider bringing things back into the project including park signs, additional landscaping, there was talk about something with the gates,” said Conigliaro.

The plan is to stay within the $625,000 the city has set aside for the project.

The Utica City Council voted to approve the proposed dog park as presented as part of the planned Pioneer Park at its Sept. 11 meeting last year. The dog park will be located on land to the north of Eppler Junior High School, where Hahn Street ends, and is planned to be built by July 13.

An Aug. 28 town hall meeting at Utica City Hall focused on gaining community input on ideas for the park — referred to as Pioneer Park, but not yet officially named — in addition to thoughts on putting a dog park inside it. The city received a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. for $500,000 to be used toward the land, which is a brownfield development due to previously being a landfill.

The city has to use these funds by the end of 2019. The city also received $125,000 from the Downtown Development Authority toward the project.

Plans for the park included connectivity to the Iron Belle Trail, installing bathrooms, improving Hahn Street, cleaning up the property, and creating green space recreational areas for families to enjoy.

Plans for the dog park included having a key fob entry system to help with the upkeep of the park once it is built. The key fobs would have to be purchased.

Other dog park plans include off-leash play, obstacles for the dogs, fencing, an area for food and water for both dogs and their owners, benches, signs, electricity, and more, all of which may be added as the dog park is built.

Charlie Borus, a local Boy Scout, is working with the city to complete the dog park as part of his Eagle Scout project.

“For my portion of the project, I will be constructing the play structures for the dogs, as well as planting a few trees. I will be constructing two sets of play structures, one for a large dog area, the other for a small dog area. (As described in the Parks and Recreation Department Master plan for 2019-2023) the play structure sets will model an agility course, much like something you would find at an American Kennel Club Dog Show. It will have an up-and-down stairway, a set of weave poles, a hurdle and a tunnel. All of these objects will be constructed out of wood, apart from the tunnel, which I am looking at getting a large pipe, and the weave poles, which will be out of PVC pipe.

“As of right now, my budget for this project is $2,000. The whole project (I hope) should not cost this amount, but this is just in case I run into the need for more expensive materials. I am also hoping to get local businesses to help me on this as well, so that should alleviate some costs,” Borus said in an email.

The park concept was recommended to the city due to the type of land, which is a brownfield and would not allow for residential building. The city was provided with free, clean soil that has already been laid over the parkland.

Conigliaro said the project should be completed by the end of construction season.