Report documents the wrangle over cost overruns at MLK Aquatic and Rec Center
The pool in the Martin Luther King Jr Recreation and Aquatic Center. Credit: Kelly Jordan
By Maggie Lee
The Martin Luther King Jr Recreation and Aquatic Center opened to fanfare in 2017 — but a new document reveals there had been an internal wrangle over about $1.4 million worth of mainly design changes.
The whole center was to have cost about $23.1 million. In 2016, a total $17 million was earmarked from Renew Atlanta, a voter-approved program for big public works, and a contract was signed with a builder. Later on, the Department of Parks and Recreation was tapped for the $6.1 million remaining.
But the total cost of the center was about $24.5 million, and the two departments feuded over the roughly $1.4 million in changes, according to a construction closeout review commissioned by the city.
“The change directives were added to the contract value as they were approved and executed by the Department of Parks and Recreation, but Renew Atlanta did not approve of adding the change directives and had the amounts removed,” the city’s audit department wrote. “The change directives were ultimately added back as an accumulated change order.”
The 18 changes were eventually lumped into one 2018 change order under the signature of the then-commissioner of parks and recreation and the then-interim chief procurement officer. The charges on the change order were paid despite lack of supporting documentation for most of them, according to the city audit department.
The review was outsourced to Carr, Riggs & Ingram, a Florida CPA firm. According to the city’s contract with CRI, the firm was retained in summer, 2018 for $49,200. The contract was supposed to end in January, 2019.
The CRI report suggested several process changes, including formalizing a process for a change directive to be reflected in a contract value.
The current Parks Commissioner, John Dargle, told an Atlanta City Council committee last week that his department is working to implement all the recommended changes.