Ris­ing con­struc­tion costs may de­lay li­brary projects


Wind­sor Pub­lic Li­brary’s am­bi­tious $7.9-mil­lion plan to build or ex­pand three branches, one after an­other, is in dan­ger of get­ting gummed up by sud­denly ris­ing con­struc­tion costs.

The most re­cent ex­am­ple of un­ex­pected price in­fla­tion for lo­cal pub­lic projects is the orig­i­nal bids re­ceived for con­vert­ing the ground floor of the city’s Pelissier Street park­ing garage, which range from $888,000 to $1.1 mil­lion for a job that was es­ti­mated to cost $507,000. After work­ing with the low bid­der to find ways to re­duce costs, coun­cil next month will be asked to ap­prove a $795,980 ex­pen­di­ture.

Li­brary CEO Kitty Pope said when she saw the jump in pric­ing for the park­ing garage project, she be­came even more worried about bids com­ing in higher than an­tic­i­pated for the li­brary’s next project: the $2.5-mil­lion John Muir Branch planned for a shut­tered 1921 fire­hall on Mill Street in the city’s west end.

The first li­brary project, the new $2.5-mil­lion W.F. Chisholm Branch, which con­sol­i­dates the South Walk­erville and Rem­ing­ton Park branches as well as the li­brary’s au­to­mo­tive archives in a 6,500-square-foot ad­di­tion to the Op­ti­mist Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, has been on bud­get and ahead of sched­ule, ac­cord­ing to Pope. But the John Muir project, which was to start shortly after the Chisholm branch opens in the fall, could be de­layed due to pric­ing con­cerns.

“We know if we went out right now (is­su­ing ten­ders), we’d end up with a ten­der well in ex­cess of what it should be,” she said, blam­ing boom­ing con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity for the in­flated prices on ten­ders.

“I think it’s good for Wind­sor, it’s kind of a good story.”

“But the flip side is some things may be de­layed un­til we can get quotes where they should be.”

Wind­sor Con­struc­tion As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent David Pe­tretta said ris­ing costs are a “huge con­cern for our in­dus­try” and for clients who have to shoul­der the costs.

“Un­for­tu­nately, this is caus­ing some projects to be put on hold,” Pe­tretta said Fri­day in an email to the Star. He de­clined to iden­tify spe­cific projects, but said it’s an is­sue in ev­ery sec­tor — res­i­den­tial, commercial, in­dus­trial and in­sti­tu­tional.

“The main is­sue is the tremen­dous amount of work out there giv­ing the (sub­con­trac­tors) less rea­son to be com­pet­i­tive in their pric­ing.”

Pope be­lieves the bids for the John Muir li­brary could be even higher be­cause the job will re­quire con­trac­tors who spe­cial­ize in ren­o­vat­ing her­itage build­ings. “And there aren’t many of them.” The third project is a $2.3-mil­lion, 6,000-square-foot ad­di­tion to the Budimir Branch on Grand Marais Road West in South Wind­sor. The branch is “in­cred­i­bly heav­ily used,” said Pope. “There’s no seat­ing at all. There is no peo­ple space, it’s so con­gested.”

Work was sup­posed to start in the fall of 2019, but it won’t start un­til the John Muir project is well un­der­way, she said. “So if John Muir is de­layed a bit, there’s a good chance Budimir will be de­layed a bit.”

Pope said be­cause there’s a sin­gle $6.9-mil­lion en­ve­lope for all three projects, it’s im­por­tant that each project not go over bud­get.

The John Muir work in­volves not only con­ver­sion of the old fire­hall, but ren­o­va­tion of an old coach house in the back and con­struc­tion of a con­nect­ing hall­way. So the li­brary will have to keep really focused on con­tain­ing costs, she said.

“The goal is not to go over bud­get,” Pope said, “and if that means some care­ful plan­ning and a slight de­lay now so we don’t go over bud­get, I think in terms of the tax­payer that makes a whole lot of sense.”


Con­struc­tion of the new Wind­sor Pub­lic Li­brary branch at­tached to Op­ti­mist Com­mu­nity Cen­tre is on bud­get, but that may not be the case for their next projects.


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