Foster City is moving forward with recreation center replacement planning after the City Council urged staff to quickly move the project along, while also voting to patch leaks on the current aging roof.

The council at its June 7 meeting voted to gather more details about financial and design options for the potential replacement of the William E. Walker Recreation Center in Leo Ryan Park after the council urged staff to identity solutions.

Mayor Sanjay Gehani noted the council wanted to move forward quickly, but there were still concerns about how long the project would take and how the city could use resources effectively instead of going to a consultant. Gehani said COVID-19 could affect future use, requiring creativity in operations.

“If we are going to move forward with this, I think flexibility is going to be important and not dedicated space, but being able to use the space in various ways is probably going to be the safest bet for use because of the timing for when we are making this decision,” Gehani said.

The city will examine recreation design options, including surrounding outdoor space options post-COVID-19, followed by financing alternatives. A competitive bid design process will occur after architecture firm Burks Toma, which worked with the city on design options, said it would no longer participate in project development. The Parks and Recreation Committee would then collect public feedback and input based on findings. The council will receive more information later in the year.

City Manager Peter Pirnejad said the recreation center roof had gotten worse since the city last looked at it, necessitating a decision on it. The council picked patching the roof on a case-by-case basis but could have picked performing extension repairs or replacing it.

“We are trying to stress is you don’t have much time. You have less time, and we are trying our best to put some bookends to how much time you have, and what we are hearing from the experts is that you have less than five years to complete this process,” Pirnejad said.

Councilmember Jon Froomin wanted to know what city funding was available for the building so a new recreation center would not have constant additions and changes.

“I think one of the biggest mistakes we can make is underbuilding or building to a budget without consideration for the future,” Froomin said.

Councilmember Sam Hindi noted the city previously had not decided on a specific financial spending amount, although, it had discussed options.

The council also discussed project timelines and delays in budget and design decisions. Foster City paused the project in 2019 because of uncertainty around levee project scheduling and costs, with renewed efforts starting this year. Councilmember Sam Hindi was frustrated more progress had not been made and wanted to see the project move forward. He said discussions had been dragging on since he joined the council in 2016.

“The biggest challenge, it seems to me, is that the city manager’s department is understaffed. Everything we want to do we are being told, we can’t do it now because we need to get more people,” Hindi said.

Froomin agreed that the project needed to move forward. However, he noted the council had not always provided the needed direction due to its adjusting the vision and mission statement and delaying decisions about implementing long-term projects.

“I agree we need to move forward. But I believe we do need to take some responsibility as a council that we asked staff to not engage in things that were not essential while we decided the mission and vision and how these projects fit that,” Froomin said.

Vice Mayor Richa Awasthi stressed the need to complete the project quickly, given the previous delays over the years.

“I do not want to reinvent the wheel. I want this to be done as efficiently and quickly as possible,” Awasthi said.

Councilmember Patrick Sullivan thought the council had outdated financial information about costs coming out of a pandemic, though he supported the project concept. He said the shortage of materials and supply costs would affect final project budget costs.

“I think the outline you have presented is extremely good. I think we need to, before I can move forward on anything, have more updated figures,” Sullivan said.

He favored delaying proceeding until he had more accurate cost figures.

“I don’t want to be blindsided. I would rather have a more accurate picture,” Sullivan said.

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