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Storm delays Amherst rec center project


AMHERST — When the Lorain County Metro Parks announced plans for the $7 million Mercy Recreation and Wellness Center more than a year ago, former Metro Parks director Dan Martin vowed the facility would open Jan. 1, 2013.

But as determined as officials were to meet that deadline, they couldn’t foresee the week’s worth of rain that would end up pushing the project’s timetable back a month.

“We’re just another in the long line of storm casualties,” current Metro Parks Director Jim Ziemnik said Friday in announcing the center won’t open until Feb. 1.

“We can’t really get too upset about it,” Ziemnik added. “There are people who have it a lot worse than us.”

The 9,500-square-foot center under construction on 8acres of donated land behind the Premier Toyota dealership on Cooper Foster Park Road north of state Route 2 was on schedule to meet its January opening before the weeklong rainfall from superstorm Sandy.

“Everything was pretty much holding true for that date, but who can plan for the effects of a hurricane, especially in Cleveland?” Ziemnik said. “If we were in Florida or the Carolinas, you might build in an extra month, but not in Ohio.”

Rain damaged a portion of the front lobby that had not yet been roofed, while high winds blew over and damaged one of the center’s rooftop heating-air conditioning units.

“If we’d had one more week (of decent weather) we would have had all of the roofs fully installed and the whole place buttoned up tight,” Ziemnik said.

“This puts us about three weeks behind,” he said.

Rain has left the ground near the building so muddy that work crews can’t get machinery in place to assess the damage to the undone roof and the heating-air conditioning unit that toppled over.

Once the ground dries, contractors will determine if the rooftop unit can be repaired or whether it must be replaced, Ziemnik said.

“The ground is so saturated that we just can’t get any machinery up next to the building,” Ziemnik said.

No dollar estimate will be put on the damage until it can be assessed, he said.

Metro Parks officials are consulting with Mercy Regional Medical Center officials on the rescheduled move-in date.

The Lorain hospital system is contributing about $2 million to the project, which will sport an eight-lane swimming pool, a therapy pool, aerobics rooms and an elevated walking track.

Plans call for Mercy to lease space in the two-story center to house physical and occupational therapy and rehabilitation services that will be relocated from the Lorain hospital.

A special-needs playground featuring 17 stations along a loop trail is being built outside the center for use by children with disabilities.

The stations will have slides, a fishing dock and a man-made sledding hill.

A separate area will have water sprays and other water features designed specifically for youngsters in wheelchairs.

The playground is being developed in consultation with the Lorain County Board of Developmental Disabilities, with an eye toward having it available to children who attend Murray Ridge Center.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.

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