Mayor’s vote needed for West Point’s pool project to move forward | News

A new West Point swimming pool that 76% of the city’s voters supported back in May wasn’t as attractive in the eyes of all West Point City Council members when they met in special session last Thursday to decide if the pool project should move forward.

After the motion to accept the $7 million bid ended in a 3-3 tie, Mayor Bruce Schlecht broke the deadlock with a “yes” vote. That paves the way for contracts to be signed and work to begin, which will happen as soon as possible.

Reasons for the opposition to the bid were cost, not enough bids to consider and because the pool won’t be finished until October 2023, meaning the city will be without a pool next summer. The city had hoped to have the pool ready to open by late May 2023.

A summer without a pool was a big concern raised by several citizens who talked to the councilmen who voted against the bid, Rusty Smith, Ryan Penrose and Shea Stokely. They favored rebidding the project.

Supporting the motion were Tom Swenson, Mark Buse and Jerry Hugo.

The lone bid was submitted by Christiansen Commercial Construction of Pender. The company has built several pools, including the West Point pool being replaced. The current pool is 36 years old.

Christiansen’s bids for the pool were $7.4 million for a May 15, 2023, completion and $6.99 million for an Oct. 15, 2023, completion. West Point voters in May approved a half-cent increase in the city’s sale tax to raise $6.4 million, which was the estimated cost. The additional half-cent tax goes into effect Saturday, Oct. 1, and ends when the bond issue is retired.

Kevin McElyea, principal owner for Aquatic Design Consultants of Louisburg, Kansas, the firm hired by the city to design the pool, said inflation and supply chain issues had raised costs and expanded time frames for many projects. That’s one reason why some potential bidders didn’t submit a bid. Some of them, McElyea added, also indicated they were busy enough or weren’t sure they had enough workers to take on the project.

He said Christiansen understands the supply chain issue and knows it will take until the fall of 2023 to finish the project. That’s why its bid for the May 15, 2023, completion date was higher — the bid included money that Christiansen eventually would pay back to the city in fines for not finishing on time.

Questions were asked about rebidding the project and if construction could be done from July 2023 to July 2024 so not to lose the full 2023 swim season.

McElyea said moving the construction period was discussed, but Christiansen indicated that doing so likely would add to the cost. As for rebidding, he said that could be done, but in his opinion, there was no guarantee that the cost would be less and could be more.

McElyea has been working with Christiansen since the bid opening to find possible deductions that could bring the cost down. The bid approved Thursday included $294,337 in deductions from the $6.99 million bid. Most of the deductions were done by finding different brands of equipment with lower price tags.

However, the city also approved $347,125 in additional items that weren’t included in the bid. The deductions and add-ons brought the total cost to $7,050,987.

Add-ons approved were a heater ($92,125), lighting ($140,000), public address system ($57,000) and restrooms that could be open all year ($58,000). The cost of the restroom wasn’t included in the $6.4 million estimate.

City administrator Tom Goulette said the city and pool committee are working to find grants to help cover the cost. Already announced is a $1.5 million grant from the Donald Nielsen Foundation.

On Thursday, the council approved a resolution to apply for a $375,000 grant from the Nebraska Game & Parks Land and Water Conservation Fund.

If the latter grant is approved, that brings the cost down to $5.2 million, with other grants still in the works.