After the lowest bid to complete Arbaney Pool’s improvements came in approximately $1.8 million higher than budgeted, Basalt town officials might rethink how cost estimates are obtained in the future.
During a Nov. 24 meeting, the Basalt Town Council awarded Rudd Construction a $3.3 million contract to complete Arbaney Pool’s improvements.
While councilors were satisfied with the project’s design, they were less enthused about its final price tag, especially after they believed it would be considerably cheaper.
“Staff doesn’t do estimating on projects,” Town Manager Ryan Mahoney said Monday. “Instead, we rely on consultants to give us those cost estimates on projects, which we did in this case. When they did those estimates, what they weren’t accounting for and what we understood to be the issue is the additional cost of materials due to the pandemic.”
According to Mahoney, the town spent $99,800 on Arbaney Pool’s “design, planning, and construction documents,” which were to be completed by local landscape architecture firm Connect One Design.
“The construction cost estimates were a contracted service to be completed by the Connect [One] Design team,” Mahoney said in an email. “This was a cost that was covered by fees paid to Connect [One] Design. Town staff did not do the estimating for the cost of improvements at the pool.”
According to Mahoney, Connect One Design used a subcontractor, Rutgers Construction Inc., to determine Arbaney Pool’s cost estimates. Rutgers Construction Inc. declined comment Monday.
According to council correspondence dated Nov. 2, the town received three bids for Arbaney Pool’s work, including $3.9 million from R.A. Nelson, $3.6 million from Rutgers Construction Inc. and $3.3 million from Rudd Construction, which ultimately received the job.
“Cost estimation is not something a designer can do particularly accurately, especially given the economic ... switch in climate. Rutgers did the best they could,” Gyles Thornely, Connect One Design principal, said.
Thornely suggested that in the future, town staff could possibly handle pre-construction services on their own. He said unforeseen, exorbitant local construction costs led to Arbaney Pool’s improvements costing millions more than originally anticipated.
“No one expected us to have a cataclysmic increase,” Thornely said. “Just a huge increase of people coming to the valley and driving the prices up.”
Councilor Bill Infante believed the Arbaney Pool improvements would be a great addition to the community but was concerned about the difference in the original cost estimates and final cost.
“The buck doesn’t stop with the contractor, it stops with town [staff] and town [staff] should have a better idea of what it was getting into because that’s ultimately what the council was sold,” Infante said. “I think everybody should have known their market a lot better.”
According to Mahoney, funding for the project will come from the town’s Parks, Open Space and Trails fund, which receives revenue from a 1% sales tax collected on items purchased in Basalt or online.
“It has to be used exclusively for those purposes. We cannot pay for the police officers’ salaries or road repairs,” Mahoney said.