Project will be deferred to next year
Construction bids for Twisp’s new civic building and operations center came in substantially higher than expected, the Town Council learned last week.
Most of the bids opened on May 20 were at least $1 million higher than the previous construction cost estimate. As a result, the project will have to be rebid, throwing off a tight construction schedule which was planned to begin this summer. The building’s construction will now be deferred to next year, Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said in an email.
The mayor said a revised timeline for the building’s bid process and construction will be discussed at the council’s meeting on June 12.
Public Works Director Andrew Denham said the seven qualified bids all came in “considerably higher than anticipated,” and the town and architect are carefully reviewing the bid specifications to look for where costs might be trimmed.
“We’re looking at value engineering options,” Denham said. “There’s a positive solution, I’m convinced of that.”
Denham said six of the seven submitted bids were fairly well grouped, and one was notably higher than the others. A summary of submitted base bids prepared by Architects West – the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, firm that is designing the building — shows bids ranging from $4.113 million to $4.85 million. Alternative bids — which consider the removal of certain items from the construction contract, or use of different materials — ranged from $3.958 million to $4.708 million.
Several weeks ago, the council signed off on nearly complete design for the building by Architects West. The architecture firm projected the construction budget at $3.3 million, but the estimated cost was just over $3 million, leaving that Architects West called some “breathing room” for changes that might be required or desired.
Denham said he learned in conversation with one bidder that what he called “the COVID-19 factor” is part of the higher projected costs. That is, he said, contractors are projecting “a buffer due to the inefficiencies” that projects expect to incur because of COVID-19 construction work site guidelines.
Several state appropriations are covering the cost of the building. Some of the state money will cover the estimated $150,000 cost of demolishing the existing building.
The 8,800-square-foot building will be constructed at the site of the existing town hall. In addition to housing town administrative offices and police headquarters, the civic building is also being designed to serve as an emergency operations center for the valley.
The town had planned to move to a temporary site for its functions while the new building was under construction, but will now stay put in the existing town hall, Ing-Moody said.
Ing-Moody said the town may pursue Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to help close the construction cost gap, saying that “it is a long shot but we’ll try.” CDBG funds are provided by the federal government and administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce. They are intended “for planning or construction of public infrastructure, community facilities, affordable housing, and economic development projects,” according to the Department of Commerce website.
In other business, the council approved the town’s applications for a Community Development Block Grant to support upgrades of the town’s wastewater management system. The town is requesting up to $900,000 for the project. Related to the wastewater management system upgrades, the council also approved an application for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Loan and Grant Program for up to $4 million.
As to a state Coronavirus Relief Fund grant of $29,400 announced earlier, Ing-Moody said the town has not yet determined possible uses for the money. The state grants are funded by the federal CARES Act. The mayor said the town can use the money strategically for immediate needs.
Ing-Moody also reported that the opening of the Wagner Memorial Pool for the summer session is “still up for discussion.” She noted that other public pools in the region will not open this summer because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The mayor said that trust funds left by the Wagner family to support the pool can be carried over to next year if not spent this summer.