By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.
The Mill Creek City Council rejected the two bids received for the city’s new Exploration Park construction at their regular July 24, 2018, meeting. They instructed city staff to rebid the project next year with the hope of receiving lower-cost bids.
The lowest of the two Exploration Park construction bids received in April 2018 was for $1,306,228. This was much higher than the project’s $530,000 budget.
It’s likely that seeking a contractor in the midst of a construction boom was one factor for the higher-than-anticipated bids. However, the city’s consulting engineer provided a higher than budget $1,078,983 estimate for the project before the city went out for bids, which means the park design may also contribute to the high bids.
At the July 24th meeting Interim City Manager Bob Stowe said, “To reduce construction costs, staff made the recommendation to council to reject all current bids and reopen the project for bids by January 2019. Pushing out the timeline will provide the City with the opportunity to reduce costs on this project and ensure fiscal stewardship to Mill Creek residents.”
The 1.2 acre park was constructed in 2006 by the North Pointe plat developer to fulfill the obligation to the city for park mitigation. It has remained unchanged in all the years since as just an open grass area with some perimeter planting beds. Poor drainage has limited the use of the park during the wet season.
Exploration Park, which is located in the North Pointe neighborhood, was to get a significant upgrade this year with the following features specifically designed for young families to enjoy:
- Large play lawn,
- Climbing hill with embedded slide,
- Logs and rocks play area,
- Frog pond,
- Short tunnel through hill, and
- Benches and picnic tables.
Unlike a number of other Mill Creek neighborhood parks, Exploration Park was not designed to have restrooms or a large covered picnic area.
According to an October 2016 news release, “The Parks and Recreation Board wanted to ensure all the park design concepts recognized this was a local neighborhood park, not a community or ‘destination’ park that would draw many people from neighborhoods too far away to walk. Their concern was this would exacerbate the already limited parking capacity of the park and the adjacent streets.”
City staff will ask next year’s potential contractors to include alternate bid options such as the climbing boulders and other climbing hill play features. These features may be removed from the construction contract to achieve additional cost-savings if necessary.