City utility director Kuldeep Sharma, who was a city engineer when the project started, said the nine contractors who bid to build the first phase of the animal shelter all wanted more money than the city had budgeted.
The 5,600-square-foot shelter, which would replace the shelter at 370 Arbor Road, is planned for an acre of land at Paradise and Grant Line roads.
Sharma said the total funding allotted for the first phase of the shelter was $4.5 million, which included purchasing the land, design, building inspection and management and construction of the animal shelter. Of that, $3.2 million was expected to cover building the first phase.
When the bids were opened March 13, the lowest was $3,334,000 and the highest was $3,978,422, without any extras. Sharma called the bidding “very competitive.”
“From the beginning of the project, we were anticipating the cost may go up, because the economy was improving,” Sharma said. “The contractors are not hungry anymore, so we were a little bit concerned.”
The bidding period for the shelter contract opened in February.
“What we did at that time was have a base bid and we have additive alternates,” Sharma said. “Basically, we limited the scope of the base bid and then we added some more items, so we thought, depending on how the bids come in, we can add those at that time and then present to the council.”
Sharma said the city staff initially thought the bids might have been higher than expected because of the short time frame — the shelter was originally scheduled to be completed by November. But after talking to the contractors, he found that the bids were high because construction costs and the strength of the economy were rising.
“It was a pretty good project when we started. Our estimates were coming in a little bit higher at that time,” Sharma said. “However, when bids came in, even the base bid amount was much higher than what we estimated.”
Sharma said the City Council would get another look at the shelter plans at the April 15 regular meeting, when city staff members will ask for more money to complete the project.
“We looked into all the bids we have, compared the cost estimates from all the contractors, and we tried to cut down wherever we can,” Sharma said.
The staff request will be to allocate an extra $400,000 to $500,000 to cover the base project and some of the add-ons.
“It is up to the council now if they allocate additional funds,” Sharma said. “If they don’t, the other alternative is to reject the bids and come back with a lesser scope and then go out to bid again.”
Kim Gray, a Tracy Animal Shelter volunteer who coordinates efforts to place cats and dogs with no-kill rescue groups, was discouraged to learn that the bids were over budget.
“They need to find the money to keep it on track,” Gray said. “I hope they can find enough money in the general fund to open the shelter in November.”
Gray said she would rally supporters of the shelter to attend the April 15 meeting to urge the council members to provide the additional funding. She said cutting back plans for the new shelter should not be an option.
“Obviously, we don’t want it delayed any longer,” Gray said. “At this point, we have waited so long for a new shelter, I don’t think we can scale anything back.”
If it comes to that, Sharma said, the city could eliminate certain areas from the shelter plans without redrawing the designs, although requesting new bids could delay the completion date.
“We have limited funds, and there was a need from the community, and we had community input that they wanted certain things,” Sharma said. “The best approach at that time was call for bids and see how they come in.”
Sharma said that if the council approved the additional funding, the contractor would sign the agreement within a month and construction would then begin within 15 days.
The bids don’t impact the proposed second phase of the shelter construction, which was planned to be built only as funds became available.
Sharma said he still thought the animal shelter could be finished by the end of the year.
“All the infrastructure to serve the project is already there. It is waiting for the construction to start,” Sharma said. “We are hoping for the best. With the economy a little bit slower, maybe we can get a better bid and the project moves ahead.”
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