Construction on a 7-acre park in downtown Cary could be delayed several months as the town seeks to reduce construction costs after receiving bids over budget.
The town hoped to spend about $3.8 million on the first phase of a park, which will include a fountain, outdoor performance space, a lawn area, garden areas and public art at the eastern corner of Academy Street and Dry Avenue.
Cary leaders wanted the first phase of park construction to coincide with a separate effort to improve Academy Street with new benches, trees, sidewalks and art.
But the park site will remain dormant as road crews begin construction on Academy Street later this month.
The three offers Cary received to build the park were $800,000 to $1.6 million more than the town’s $3.8 million budget. JM Thompson bid $4.6 million for the project, Riley Construction bid $5.3 million, and Bar Construction bid nearly $5.4 million. The bids came after the town re-advertised the project; No bids were received the first time in March.
The Cary Town Council rejected the bid offers at its May 5 meeting and instructed town staff to re-bid the project after determining why a consultant’s construction cost estimates were inaccurate and evaluating how the town can save money without damaging the integrity of the park plans.
The process could delay park construction up to three months, said Paul Kuhn, a construction manager in Cary’s transportation and facilities department. Construction would then take about a year.
Council members were visibly upset by the news at their meeting. They hoped the park, considered a signature part of downtown, and Academy Street road project construction would begin and end at the same time, so that Cary could unveil the new downtown upgrades at the same time.
Some, including councilman Don Frantz, said they’re baffled that a consultant’s construction cost estimates could have been so inaccurate.
“Can we re-bid the consultant contract?” Frantz asked, soliciting a few laughs from audience members.
“I don’t consider that a joke,” Councilman Jack Smith said sternly. “It’s a very serious thing when you’re $800,000 over.”
If the town were to seek a new consultantant, it would have to rebid the work, which would further prolong the process, Kuhn said. The consultant is now helping the town reduce the cost of the project for free, he said.
Staff members are looking at the project details, line by line, to determine which items can be cut or tweaked, he said. In some cases, the town might be able to save money by using different materials than originally planned, he said.
They’ve already identified some ways to save money, Kuhn said. For instance, staff heard from contractors that they could save thousands of dollars by simply adjusting the angle of a retaining wall they’re seeking to build at the park, he said.
“You do that on 10 or 15 items, and it adds up to thousands of dollars, which is what we need,” Kuhn said.
Town staff hopes to come up with a re-designed plan in the next three weeks, and then present that plan to the Town Council before moving forward, Kuhn said.
Some of the funding for the park was approved in a bond referendum in November 2012.