Columbus City Council on Tuesday unanimously rejected the sole bid it received to build new fields at Propst Park due to higher-than-expected costs and lack of competition.
Weathers Construction submitted the bid, which carried a $2,758,600 base cost plus nearly $1 million in alternates for a total of $3,550,694, according to figures City Engineer Kevin Stafford provided.
The alternates included $143,650 for irrigation; adding electrical receptacles to backstops, dugouts and scorer’s tables, at a cost of $95,330; adding spectator sunshades for $387,836; and $165,278 to add scorer’s table pavilions.
The city’s projection for a base bid was $2.5 million, Stafford said.
Earlier this year, the city approved moving forward with four new youth baseball fields — completing a five-field “wheel” begun with the construction of the Field of Dreams. The city has about $1.2 million on hand from proceeds from the 2-percent tourism tax.
The city gets about $400,000 annually from the tax, earmarked for recreation, which it has banked over the past three years. The city intends to pursue grants, private donations and other funding opportunities while planning is underway to make up the difference.
Stafford recommended rejecting the Weathers bid and looking for ways to cut costs.
“I’m looking at this $3.5 million cost, and with the way the economy is going that could be even higher if we wait,” said Vice Mayor Joseph Mickens, who represents Ward 2.
Stafford said rebidding would hopefully draw more competition.
“Right now you have one bid,” he said. “Other bidders that would be at the table are currently building the (Lowndes County sports complex) and also the Starkville baseball complex, and they don’t have enough capacity to bid this job. Bringing competition to the table would bring a potential lower price.”
Stafford also suggested looking at other options for lighting rather than the “gold standard” included in the current plans.
“You’re talking about $900,000 (of the base bid) is just lighting,” he said. “The lights in the bid are the same as the soccer complex; it’s the gold standard for lighting. You can look at cheaper lighting systems, and you can look at financing your lighting system over 10 years.”
The city could also look at partnering with Columbus Light and Water, he said.
“There may be ways we can partner with them for street lights and things of that nature,” he said.
Mickens suggested breaking the project up into phases.
“People want to see some dirt turning out there,” he said. “…If we don’t have enough for four fields, can we cut it down and do three fields? If we can’t do but two (right now), let’s just do two.”
Mickens asked Stafford to bring back a plan breaking the work down further, in smaller pieces.
“Just fair warning that’s probably going to cost you more in the long run because of the economy of scale, but then something happens,” Stafford said. “And I get that.”
Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones asked Stafford to get with CLW and “back out” some of the lights and then come back with some idea how much money that would save.
“When we did the Field of Dreams, lights were an issue then, too,” Stafford said. “They did the street lighting then, and I’m not saying they would do that again, but I’ll talk to them.”
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.
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