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Construction Delay Project Bids Too High
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Despite high hopes that the tough economic times would translate into low bids from companies looking for work, Escalon city officials were dismayed when all bids for the proposed Civic Center project came in much higher than anticipated.

A special council meeting was slated at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, after the Times went to press, and the council was expected to reject all bids at that time.

"The lowest bid was $3,840,000 and the highest was $4,537,000," explained Escalon City Manger Greg Greeson. "We got eight of them and from number one to number seven, they were all within about $350,000 of each other."

City officials were hopeful that the bids would come in around $3 million, with work to be done on the McHenry Avenue shell buildings the city purchased for use as the new Civic Center complex. All city departments, except Public Works, will be making the move from the downtown area to the McHenry site when the construction is completed.

"We got a good amount," Greeson said of the number of bids received, they just didn't include the numbers that council members wanted. "We were hopeful that the bids would come in somewhere between $2.9 and $3.4 million, obviously hoping for bids on the low end."

Part of the problem may be the tight time constraints, said Greeson, with the city looking at getting on a fast track for occupancy.

"It's a five month construction time, we wanted to be done by mid-March," he said, noting that the purchase agreement includes some time sensitive deadlines.

All that will be reviewed with the city's bond attorney, Greeson said, to see if there is some flexibility that will allow for a slightly longer construction period, which could in turn result in lower bids.

"We want to give staff some time to go back to the architect, see how we can repackage this," Greeson added of making some cost-cutting moves in the actual project. "We'll look at if we can cut back on some things we have in the building ... we didn't really go ornate, we went pretty spartan but we can at least take a look at it."

The properties at 2040 and 2060 McHenry will be the new home for the city departments eventually, with the shells already there and the construction plans determining the layout of each building. The police department and recreation department will share one building, while the other will include offices for the city staff and administration, in addition to the council chambers.

A third lot, at 2020 McHenry, was also included in the purchase package but is as yet undeveloped and will be available for future city expansion.

"We'll go back to the drawing board," Greeson said, admitting that officials were disappointed with the outcome of the Oct. 7 bid opening.

With some cuts, re-visiting the construction time frame and other adjustments still to be made to the plan, Greeson said they will go back out to bid as soon as possible, though no firm date has been established.

"It'll be soon," agreed Greeson. "It'll be high priority, that's for sure."