Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

TOP STORY >>$3.7M bid for library is too high

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

With a bid of $3,765,000, Wilkins Construction of North Little Rock was apparent low bidder for the new Jacksonville public library, but that bid was well over the $3 million estimate of project architects Witsell, Evans and Rasco of Little Rock.

If that holds up as the low bidafter scrutiny by the architects, Central Arkansas Library System will still have to make about $1 million in cuts, according to Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim.

“We will build a library, and without reducing the size,” he said.

“We look at alternate deductions and areas where there is some opportunity to take the overrun out,” he added.

Among the possible cuts are eliminating some pre-cast concrete features and substituting drywall for wood in some areas.
An energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning unit could be replaced with a less efficient, less expensive one, he said.
“The library (system) could put some money in and perhaps some donors,” Swaim said. “We will make contact with the low bidder on possibilities for savings.”

It will be several days before the actual low bid is accepted. Central Arkansas Library System director Bobby Roberts said he believed the project was more like $400,000 to $700,000 over budget.

“We’ll find more money to put in and/or cut back some of the pieces,” Roberts said.
“First we’ll look at the project and see what we can take out of it,” he said. “We’re usually over on bids,” he added.

Eight firms submitted bids ranging from the apparent low bid to $5 million, with six of the eight grouped in the $3.8 million to $3.9 million range.

David Sargent, a principal in the Witsell firm, opened the sealed envelopes and read the bids aloud, starting promptly at 2 p.m. at Jacksonville City Hall.

“Our job is to get it in budget,” Sargent said.

“I never worked on a project where the architect was right on the estimate,” the mayor said. In July 2006, Jacksonville residents approved a one-mill property-tax increase to pay off $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library building.

The current building the Nixon Library calls home was constructed in 1969. It is one of the oldest buildings in the Central Arkansas Library System.

It was named the Esther D. Nixon Library in 1992 in honor of the first librarian. Along with being old, the Nixon library is small with 9,265 square feet.

The new library will be approximately 13,500 square feet. Excluding the Nixon Library, the average Central Arkansas Library System building is five years old and has about 14,000 square feet.