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.