Saturday, June 8, 2013

Bidding Ballyhoo

Artists rendering of what the restrooms and concession stand for the mini-golf course the borough wants to erect at the western "Gateway" to Pottstown, if only they can manage to sink the piers that will hold up the building.

Two major projects in the borough may be stymied by bids that have come in over the project’s budgets Public Works Director Doug Yerger reported Wednesday.

Bids for the replacement of the collapsed underground stormwater arch on Grant Street and the “Gateway” miniature golf course project on High Street both came in much higher than expected and borough officials are not sure why.

Assistant Borough Manager Erica Weekley said the borough received only one bid for arch repair.

The collapsed arch, between Walnut and Beech streets and alongside The Hill School, was discovered in December, when a specialist hired by the borough to check for water main leaks detected something unusual.

When the street was opened, it was discovered that the foundation under one of the arch walls had been undermined, forcing one side of the arch wall to collapse.

Photo by Evan Brandt

Workers close off the collapsed stormwater arch on Grant Street.
The cost of replacing it just keeps going up.

Originally estimated at a cost of between $40,000 to $50,000, the first low bid for the repair instead came in on Feb. 19 at $124,743, Yerger said.

A second round of bidding didn’t improve matters any when just one bid came in that was no less expensive.

Meanwhile, at the “Gateway” project, where three bidders made construction proposals, bid costs ranged from $771,000 to $917,000, “which is $140,000 high, and we have to find out why,” said Yerger, adding, “they seem to be totally out of line.”

Added Yerger, “right now, we’re no understanding what went wrong” with the estimates.

“We’ve already taken out $100,000 to $150,000 in expenses for this project, we can’t take any more out of this project’s budget at this point and still stick with the concept we chose,” he said.

That concept has an environmentally-themed mini-golf course going up on part of the former Pottstown Metal Weld property between King and High streets and adjacent to the Carousel building.

The borough saved much of that money primarily by purchasing a pre-fab building to serve as the mini-golf office, restroom and concession stand, for $60,000 rather than building from scratch, at a cost of $100,000 to $150,000.

The cheaper option was discovered when it was brought to the borough’s attention that it could join an educational purchasing cooperative and obtain the proposed building at lower cost.
Steve Toroney

But even putting that building in place is proving problematic, Yerger told council.

When a holes were dug to put the building footers in the ground “we came up with pieces of brick and wood, all kinds of junk,” Yerger said. “We went 11-feet down and still haven’t hit bedrock, and then we hit water.”

“The soil is not adequate and this has become much more involved then we anticipated,” Yerger said.

Test borings may be necessary to see if footers can be used, “otherwise we might not be able to put in a standard pier system to hold that building up.”

Council President Stephen Toroney suggested using tn existing concrete slab where a building once stood on the property.

“That should hold it,” Toroney said. “It’s only a trailer.”

Referring to both the arch and Gateway projects, Yerger observed that the paucity of bids suggests “it doesn’t seem like everyone’s as hungry as they might have been at one time.”

However things are going right — so far — on at least one borough project, the planning for a new borough
Photo by Evan Brandt

10 Rice St. will soon be home to Pottstown's new borough garage.
garage at 10 Rice St.

Toroney said the committee selecting architects was most impressed with the firm of Kimmel Bogrette, out of Conshohocken, which will be at Monday night’s meeting to talk about their proposal.

“What I’m most concerned about are change orders and budgeting and they really nailed it” in their presentation, said Councilman Joe Kirkland.

Yerger said so far, the borough has not been over specific about what it wants from the new borough garage, and Monday night council is expected to vote to hire the firm for the first phase of the project “where we work with the staff really identify and narrow-down the component pieces, so when the project goes out to bid it is not too broadly priced out.”

“There are a lot of variables to be worked out yet,” he said.

That first phase work, which will involve developing costs estimates from working out those details enough to allow the project to go out to bid, will cost taxpayers about $13,000, said Yerger.