The pool in the Martin Luther King Jr Recreation Center and Aquatic Center. Credit: Kelly Jordan
The pool in the Martin Luther King Jr Recreation Center and Aquatic Center. Credit: Kelly Jordan
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.


Highlights Page – Closeout Construction Audit – Aquatic Center Project

CRI Report – Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center Project

Contract FC-10163 Construction Audti for MLK Recreation and Aquatic Center

A gallery of the MLK Recreation and Aquatic Center’s opening day, by Kelly Jordan

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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  1. Please name me one government project that has not had cost overruns. Bid low, get the contract, pay-off the politicians, and bill overruns. That’s the game and the taxpayers foot the bill.

  2. It is comforting to know that in Atlanta, every dime of taxpayer’s money is spent wisely and with the greatest attention to fiscal responsibility. (cough, cough….)

  3. Richard, just because it is common doesn’t mean it’s right. I was Chairman of a Small Board of Education. The four years I was in office, we controlled a building program funded by Sales Tax funds for the first time in our County and we kept projects under budget. Every year I was in office, property taxes funding the school system were reduced, and the schools improved. Since I left office, taxes have constantly increased and are now at the legal maximum allowed by law. Money is not the problem in most governments, management of funds is the problem. Schools don’t need more money, they need to educate the students they are tasked to care for. Lack of discipline, management of funds, dedicated teachers, parent involvement, etc. are the issues.

    The only problem about funding is that it is far too easy to spend someone else’s money. You must take care of the funds that you are entrusted to manage and do what you are tasked to do with the funds. Use common sense, and spend the taxpayers’ money as if it were your own. If it’s not worth the money, you don’t need to buy it.

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