YEAR IN REVIEW — YACHT CLUB
OCEAN PINES —Construction of the Ocean Pines Yacht Club continued this year, even as controversies over costs, materials and unexpected discoveries sent the Board of Directors into fits of turmoil. Nevertheless, Ocean Pines Association General Manager Bob Thompson reported during a Dec. 18 board meeting the new facility is already getting bookings for 2014 and is scheduled to open around May 1.
Dignitaries, residents and well-wishers gathered in frigid winds to attend the groundbreaking for the Yacht Club renovation project on March 14.
OPA President Tom Terry called the project, “An important step for our community.” He said it had been a big decision for the community to make: whether to repair or to replace the facility. The seven members of the OPA board of directors in July, 2012 voted unanimously to approve a $4.3 million contract with Salisbury firm Harkins Contracting, Inc., to build the new yacht club and a pending referendum was the only factor keeping the construction from beginning.
After an intense information campaign and public hearing to explain the proposed Yacht Club project to the homeowner association’s members, OP property owners overwhelmingly endorsed the Yacht Club project in a September 2012 referendum.
The first delay came in October 2012, when the Worcester County Planning Commission delayed construction by declining its approval because the dimensions and number of planned parking spaces were deemed inadequate for county requirements. Once revisions were resubmitted, the commission gave its approval for the project in November, clearing the way for an early 2013 start for construction.
The old Yacht Club building remained open until Labor Day, 2013 as construction of the new structure had begun earlier that March next to the pre-existing building.
Management reports on the progress of the Yacht Club replacement project had been positive throughout the summer, even as fiscal hawk Director Marty Clarke raised concerns over the lack of competitive bidding and costs related to the project.
While Clarke often positions himself as a lone voice in the wilderness on the spending, procurement and accounting practices approved by the board, one incident seemed to take pretty much all of the board by surprise.
In October, the board was placed in the position of having to approve an alternate façade for the Yacht Club after it was discovered that the original river rock design did not comply with a list of unacceptable commercial building materials that had been in the Worcester County Guidelines and Standards since November, 2009. The alternate material, split-faced concrete, was derided by critics as more industrial than the fashionable river rock.
Meanwhile the Yacht Club Implementation Advisory Committee charged with helping in the advisory process disbanded when its facilitator Ted Moroney quit after deciding that trying to provide useful input in the process had been futile. Terry intervened and after a group meeting with Moroney and Thompson got the advisory process back on track.
Reinstituted, the committee began a comprehensive review of the project’s events and reported its findings in an Oct. 12 memo with a chronicled timeline of events leading up to the façade change, along with a brief list of recommendations. It found that the initial river stone design prepared by AWB Engineering had been a design error “as the architect should have followed to recently approved guidelines.” The implementation team also noted that the contractor Harkins had already ordered the alternate trim material and could not get a credit for its return. To seek a waiver to change back to stone trim would cost somewhere between $40,000 to $60,000 and cause a delay, they said.
The timeline and explanation seemed to unruffle the board’s feathers enough to allow the directors to approve the change.
No sooner had that crisis been resolved, the board was informed that the kitchen equipment scheduled to be transferred from the old to the new facility was too old to reuse, once it was actually removed. Some of the items had been in the old Yacht Club since its start and an informal conversation with a county building inspector alerted the contractors that to go forward with reinstalling the old equipment into the new building could very well lead to the new Yacht Club kitchen failing inspection.
Representatives from Harkins Construction Inc., AWB Engineering, and Savoy/Brown Consultants, were summoned to explain a proposed increase in kitchen-related costs, from $234,300 to $690,030, and pressed for a “drop dead” completion date.
The proposal was ultimately approved, but only on the condition that it was the final increase the board would allow for the remainder of the project.