With planned Bayview Community Center nearly $5 million over budget, Pensacola mayoral candidate calls for halt and review of project

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“I support this project, but the costs are out of control and citizens deserve answers.”

Pensacola mayoral candidate Drew Buchanan is calling on the City of Pensacola to immediately halt construction of the Bayview Park Community Center and for the Pensacola City Council to conduct a full review of the project, which is now nearly 70 percent over budget.

Buchanan’s call for more oversight over the project comes in the wake of the mayor’s office presenting a last-minute add-on item to Thursday’s city council agenda to request approval of another $1.9 million towards the project — already funded at $8.25 million, and originally budgeted for $6 million.

“I support this project, but the costs are out of control and citizens deserve answers,” Buchanan said.

Bayview Park overlooking Bayou Texar.

While rising construction costs can be blamed for a portion of the project’s increased cost, a nearly 70 percent budget overrun is indicative of a larger management problem, Buchanan said. In the past five years, the City of Pensacola built two other community centers — the Theophalis May and Woodland Heights centers — at a cost of just $3 million each.

“In the private sector, if there were cost overruns like this and a project’s cost nearly doubled, questions would be asked and people would be held accountable,” Buchanan added. “For projects of this scale, the city should be utilizing design-build construction management to keep costs predictable. As Pensacolians, we would expect the same amount and level of accountability from our municipality.”

To pay for the cost overruns, the mayor’s office is asking the city council to approve spending $560,000 out of the city’s local option sales tax budget meant for improvements like LED streetlights.

“We have many miles of streets in our westside neighborhoods and across our city that have severe gaps in street lighting,” Buchanan said. “This is an essential and basic service that our city should be providing. It’s extremely frustrating that City Hall wants to divert that money elsewhere.”

Listed for the first time in the 1907 Pensacola City Directory, Bayview Park is a local landmark with a rich history. The original Bayview park community bathhouse can be seen here.(UWF Archives)

In addition to conducting a full review of the project, Buchanan is calling for the city to host a citizen town hall in East Hill to address the lack of public input on the project’s design in one of the most historic neighborhoods in Florida.

“The citizens of Pensacola and residents of East Hill feel their voices were not heard when it comes to building this neighborhood community center — the costliest in city history,” Buchanan said. “Holding one public input meeting just isn’t going to cut it. The citizens deserve to have input on this taxpayer-owned facility.”

Buchanan reiterated that he supports rebuilding the Bayview Center, but that this project must reflect the needs and wants of citizens and its costs must be appropriately managed.

“This is a facility that will stand for generations in one of our city’s premier parks,” Buchanan said. “The project is way over budget and residents feel that the design doesn’t reflect their wishes. It’s time to go back to the drawing board.”

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