So reconciling that set of high bids is the next problem to be solved before dirt flies, GELD Manager Keven Kelly said.
When the building was first proposed, GELD’s architects estimated the building cost at $3.5 million. As recently as late this spring, they stuck with that figure. But firms responding to GELD’s request for proposals yielded four bids in a narrow range of $4.3–4.56 million, with a higher bid at $5 million. Up to another million dollars may be needed for contingencies.
“The architect is sill in shock,” Kelly said.
One factor for the high estimates may be timing, in both a large scale time frame and a seasonal sense. When GELD began proposing and presenting plans for its new garage and office complex, two and a half years ago, the construction industry was mired in a recession. Contractors and architects were looking for projects — any projects to keep their crews working. Now that GELD is ready to move forward, the recession has pretty much ended, at least this summer. Construction firms are busy, working through a backlog of pent-up demand.
So the long permitting process was one factor in driving prices up, Kelly allowed. “I can’t quantify that, but I’d say yes. I think that the delay was a significant factor.”
In the seasonal sense, GELD put out its proposals at the height of this year’s construction cycle, when there was a lot of competition from other projects. That could have been another factor, Kelly said.
At this point, GELD is going to work with the architect and engineers to simplify the design as much as possible to reduce costs. The original design wasn’t extravegant, Kelly and GELD commissioners have said, but there may be some corners to cut that will reduce cost. They won’t pursue solutions that alter the footprint of the buildings, which would require revisiting the town’s permitting bodies.
“We’re looking at simplification. We don’t have much fluff in this building, so it’s got to be a simplification of design; looking for economies of scale. For instance, we have three styles of windows in the plan, so in the finished project if we have one style of window, that gives us an economy of scale. We have two styles of roof in the plan; but using one style may be cheaper,” he said.
“One of the requests in the permitting process was to make it expandable to a two story building. But we’re a million dollars over budget, so we’re probably going to have to take that out. It’s trying to pick up $100,000 here, and $200,000 over here,” he said.
Kelly said that GELD hasn’t ruled out spending more than it anticipated on the new building, but all cost-reduction options will be considered first.
If adjusting the details works out well, Kelly said the town-owned utility would put its proposal out to bid again late this year and break ground as early as possible next spring. Construction could take a year.