A construction bid more than $1 million higher than expected has given the Richland Public Facilities District board reason to pause on the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center project.
Board members voted unanimously at a special meeting Monday to not recommend accepting or rejecting the$4 million bid from Apollo to build the first phase of the project at the west end of Columbia Park but to take up to 45 days to evaluate the options.
The board called for bids a month ago, but the city council, which created the facilities district and appointed its members, will make the final decision.
Apollo's base bid of $3.4 million -- at 36 percent higher -- was well beyond the engineer's estimate of $2.5 million, which was for site work, road construction and a parking lot.
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The facilities district hoped to bring the project in at a price that would come under a federal transportation grant of $2.9 million and allow for some extras.
The board was looking to include a 100-seat amphitheater at an estimated cost of $255,500, but Apollo said that would cost $454,000.
And the option of parking lot lighting was anticipated to cost $78,000, while Apollo's estimate was $132,000.
The final bid package, with all options, was $4 million, which was 39 percent greater than the engineer's estimate.
Pete Rogalsky, Richland's city engineer, said Apollo was the only one of six contractors that showed enough interest in the project to present a bid.
"Our timing may have been bad," Rogalsky said, explaining that the call for bids came in late spring for summer work, when most contractors already have their work portfolios filled.
He said that for the past few years, contractors have been clamoring for jobs, but that changed dramatically in the past two months.
Rogalsky said the bid also may have some padding to cover issues that could come up while monitoring the construction site for cultural resources.
Board members considered rejecting the bid and calling for new bids, hoping it might bring more bidders. But Rogalsky said re-bidding the project might not yield better results.
A suggestion to try again without the amphitheater in the bid package prompted board Chairman Fred Raab to say that having the amphitheater was a big piece of what the board wanted in the first phase, but member Rick Jansons said that contributed to the high price.
"Its design was excessive," Jansons said, mentioning the pricey colored and stamped concrete that were in the amphitheater design.
"We may have to re-scope this," said board member Nick Ceto.
Apollo representative David Haight, who is operations manager, told the board it should accept the bid as responsible and meeting the requirements.
"If we take the risk to put the numbers together, you should honor it," Haight said.
He said Apollo can justify its bid and the engineer's bid should be evaluated.
Haight sent the board a letter Friday to remind it of the state law about awarding bids. He said at the meeting that if the board would agree to work with Apollo, he would be willing to meet with members to talk about how to reduce some project costs.
Rogalsky said the board's reluctance to recommend the city accept or reject Apollo's bid means the city council is unlikely to take any action at tonight's meeting on awarding the bid.
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org