A long-awaited, 257-acre park off Evergreen Mills Road near Arcola is finally moving toward construction, but high costs could cut out some parts of the project including its four planned baseball diamonds.
“Well, this has been a long time coming, but man, are we in a bit of a situation here with this one,” said Board of Supervisors’ finance committee Chairman Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).
Plans for the Hal and Berni Hanson Regional Park reach back at least to 2008, when the Board of Supervisors bought the property, which is bisected by Evergreen Mills Road near Northstar Boulevard. The park’s plans include 17 lighted athletic fields from baseball to cricket, a nature center building, a lodge building, a park office building, a maintenance building and facilities, picnic shelters, restrooms with concessions, associated parking, five athletic courts such as for tennis, two playgrounds, two dog parks, a splash pad, a skate plaza, and paths and trails. The project would also involve renovating the historic building on the property, the Hanson House, and putting a turn lane and stoplight on Evergreen Mills Road at the entrance to the park.
But some of that long list of facilities could be cut, because of funding shortfalls in the project. On April 9, the board’s finance committee recommended awarding a construction contract for the project that does not include any baseball diamonds or tennis courts and their associated parking, restrooms and concessions; two synthetic turf soccer fields and their grandstands; a lodge building for year-round programming or renting out for private events, along with its associated garden and parking; a nature center akin to the one at Claude Moore Park; and another restroom pavilion with parking.
All three of the bids for that project came in over the county’s budget. Anticipating that, county staff members set aside five parts of the project that could be cut out of the contract to lower costs.
“The purpose of these deducts was to provide a very specific and transparent process to lower the lump sum bids to the point where we could have enough money to award to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder,” Loudoun contracting officer Christopher Bresley told the committee. “And as is apparent, we did have to remove all five deducts before we got to the point where we could award the contract.”
The contract will go to Hess Construction, which has agreed to hold those parts of the contract until the end of May. Cutting out all of those deductions shaved $12.9 million off the company’s $76.6 million bid, bringing it down to $63.6 million, within the county’s $64 million budget.
Still, county staff members say they may be able to add some of those projects back into the contract as they find more funding. The project will be reviewed by the full Board of Supervisors in May, and county budget director Erin McLellan said there may be proffer money in the area that can be applied to the Hanson Park project.
Supervisors may also have something to say about which parts of the project should be cut.
“I wasn’t thrilled with the actual deduct choices that were made, and the fact that the Board of Supervisors didn’t have any input into those, because I would have made some different choices,” Letourneau said. “For instance, I absolutely don’t think we should ever be in a position where we’re building 10-12 rectangle fields and zero diamonds.”
Supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) agreed.
“I’m just not happy with taking out all five diamonds and saying, OK, we still build all 10 rectangles,” Buona said. “There’s needs across the board.”
Letourneau said, when done, Hanson Park will be a “crown jewel for the community.”
“We’ve been talking about this thing for so long, and this kind of came to gestation for so long, that I don’t think people think it’s ever really going to happen,” Letourneau said. But he said the finance committee’s vote was a “milestone.”
The committee voted unanimously to recommend awarding a $63.6 million contract for the park project to Hess Construction & Engineering Services, Inc. The finance committee is expected to hear the item again—along with recommendations for adding some parts of the park plans back in—at its May 14 meeting.