Friday, September 9, 2011

Woodside Boulevard plan hits snags

Hailey City Council rejects $182,000 engineering cost overrun

Express Staff Writer

The city of Hailey was in a rush last spring to get a plan together for the reconstruction of 2.5 miles of Woodside Boulevard because time was running out to secure a $3.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation "stimulus" grant.

The city was prepared to spend about $910,000 from its capital fund to match the grant money, providing for sidewalks, bus shelters and speed-reduction elements on one of Hailey's busiest streets.

The project was scheduled to begin this summer, but despite the hurry to accommodate Woodside residents' needs and at least $600,000 in engineering costs so far, the city will not be able to begin the project until at least next summer.

"We need more money to do this," City Administrator Heather Dawson said at a City Council meeting Wednesday.

The lowest construction bid for the project came in on July 27 at nearly $6.8 million, about $2.3 million more than the city expected.

The council rejected the bid Wednesday and authorized city staff to review an engineering cost overrun of $182,000 from JUB Engineers before paying the bill. The overrun is above the $600,000 that the city authorized JUB to spend on the project.

"This took us by surprise," Mayor Rick Davis said.

Public Works Director Tom Hellen said JUB did a "tremendous" amount of work in getting the grant package together in time for the federal deadline, but that the overrun was never authorized by the City Council.

"We never stopped to ask how much it was going to cost," Hellen said.

The council discussed the possibility of scaling back on engineering plans for the redevelopment project to move forward with alternatives that would meet the requirements of the federal grant and Woodside residents.

Dawson said JUB Engineers estimates that re-engineering a scaled-back version of the project would cost an additional $52,000.

"This is a prime example of how these grants are not free," said Councilman Fritz Haemmerle.

City staff was authorized to continue conversations with the Federal Highways Administration to see if the project could be scaled back and still meet grant requirements.

Dawson presented a scaled-back plan for the redevelopment that would save $1.1 million, but the plan left the city with more than $1 million in uncovered projected expenses. She said putting the project out to bid in January could buy the city time to pursue more federal funding.

Hellen said putting the bids out in winter could result in lower bids.

Councilman Don Keirn said the city could benefit from an expected $300 billion jobs plan that President Obama was expected to announce Thursday.

"There is supposed to be a lot for infrastructure in there," Keirn said.

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