With bids coming in so high, the Watertown City Council is expected to take a hard look Monday night at whether the former aviary at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park will be converted into an education center after all.
Council members plan to discuss the project after learning last week that bids came in nearly double the expected amount.
We may have to go back to square one, a disappointed Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said Friday, acknowledging that council members could be forced to reconsider the project because of its now nearly $1 million price tag.
On Thursday, City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk expressed surprise that the lowest bids came in as high as they did. The projected $531,612 project received a low bid of about $950,000.
According to Mr. Hauk, the base bid for the project from Bette & Cring LLC, Watertown, came in at about $750,000, with an additional $133,000 for HVAC/plumbing from Empire Northeast Inc., Gouverneur, and a bid of about $67,000 for electrical work from Norsworthy Electric, Hammond.
It now will be up to the council to decide how to proceed, Mr. Hauk said Thursday.
Despite the news, Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns, who has been a strong supporter of the project, isnt quite ready to throw in the towel. She said she wants Mr. Hauk to look into why the bids were so much higher than expected.
Certainly, its a setback. Its very surprising, she said Saturday, adding that it may be a good idea to postpone the project a year and hope bids come back lower if the city starts the process earlier in the construction season.
While she said council members will talk Monday about whether the city can afford to proceed, Ms. Burns said she does not think her colleagues will make a decision Monday night. Instead, Mr. Hauk will be given a chance to find out why the bids were so out of whack, Ms. Burns said.
Describing it as an iconic nearly 40-year-old structure, the mayor and other council members have pushed for saving the defunct steel-framed aviary after zoo officials requested to demolish it two years ago and turn the space into a pavilion. Before the last election, the mayor made the project one of his campaign goals.
In May, the City Council learned that the estimated total cost for the project, $487,000, was expected to rise by about $45,000. Despite that news, the council instructed the city engineering office to proceed with going out to bid.
The project already has gone through two revisions to keep costs down. In May, the council was presented alternative bids that included having city crews complete some of the demolition work, extend electric service to the A-frame structure and install sidewalks and a ramp. The council also could eliminate solar panels and interior cabinets and display exhibits that zoo officials had requested, he said.
The zoo plans to use the learning center, to be named after the late Mayor Karl R. Burns, for education and exhibit space, and a variety of events, including birthday parties and other gatherings.
In November, the City Council said it liked revised plans that architects said they believed would save the city more than $90,000 from an earlier projection of $587,000, but wanted to retain the structures A-frame shape.
Council members will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the third- floor council chambers at City Hall, 245 Washington St. It also will be the first meeting over which new City Manager Sharon A. Addison will preside.