Projected cost climbs $700,000 over budget
Facing a $700,000 cost overrun with no way to fund it, county commissioners agreed to cancel work on the Jesse Helms Park complex. By a unanimous vote Monday, Nov. 21, commissioners agreed to end the project and return the $500,000 grant to the state, saying there was no way to cover the budget overrrun.
“It’s something we can’t do right now,” commissioner Todd Johnson said. “I have to believe other counties are in the same boat we are.”
In 2008, the county applied for a $500,000 grant to develop the “passive” area of Jesse Helms Park. At that time, the total cost estimate fell at $1.1 million, with Union County budgeting $611,963. That was before the entrance bridge to the park collapsed last year, with the county spending money to upgrade the size of the rock at the footing of the bridge, realign the walkway portion and also provide funds for an engineering service to test the bridge’s retaining walls. As repairs went on for the bridge, the county’s work on the “passive” area was delayed several months, forcing staff members to request a one year extension on a deadline for when the work covered by the grant would be finished. That extension runs out June 30, 2012 and with the new cost projections, county commissioners didn’t believe they could find the money for that before July.
The project went out to bid September 18 of this year, with four companies responding. The lowest bid came from JD Goodrum Company, at $1.646 million. That didn’t include additional items postponed from the bridge repair, which push the final cost to $1.778 million, an estimated $747,083 over budget. The increased cost comes from site preparation expenses, including grading, as well as work on local utilities.
Johnson, who is the commission liaison to Parks and Recreation, said the county was limited in what it could remove from the project, in order to cut spending.
“If we reduce too many things, it falls outside the scope of the grant,” Johnson said, explaining that means the $500,000 would go away.
County manager Cindy Coto told commissioners that staff did everything they could to save money.
“We had to go back and look at what could be done by staff and took that out,” Coto said. Even with items removed, the numbers still wouldn’t add up.
“If you don’t have it, you don’t have it,” commissioner Tracy Kuehler said.
Commissioners agreed to go ahead and finish the remaining portions of the bridge project that still needed work, including a final paving job.