DECATUR — Construction is expected to begin in June on a new water park on the city's east side as the Decatur Park District moved forward Wednesday with a $3,789,977 bid for a pool, one of the largest portions of the project.
The district's board of commissioners voted 5-0 to accept the bid from St. Louis-based Westport Pools. The project remains on schedule to open in 2019, said Larry Livergood, managing partner of Architectural Expressions, a Forsyth architectural firm consulting on the project.
"(The pool is) a big step," he said. "It really is getting the project underway."
Livergood said his firm received three total bids for the pool and Westport provided the lowest one. The other bids came from St. Louis-based Capri Pools & Aquatics and Leander Construction in Canton, he said.
When Westport begins work at the pool site, it will build the aquatics facility's 25-yard lap pool and 7,800-square-foot leisure pool, Livergood said. The price for the bid contained both the base bid cost and the cost of an alternate bid that would add two additional lanes to the pool's proposed six, he said.
Commissioner Stacey Young, who attended the meeting by phone, asked why the alternate bid for the extra lanes wasn't voted on separately from the base bid. District Attorney Ed Flynn said voting on the bids together was the most feasible method.
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"If you take them as two separate alternates, you'd actually be in a very difficult position because you'd have one contractor building the pool and another contractor building the two lanes," he said. "That would just be an impossible effort to coordinate."
Commissioner Chris Riley and park district Executive Director Bill Clevenger said building the lap pool with eight-lanes would make it more desirable to organized swim programs and competitions.
Speaking late Wednesday afternoon, Clevenger said that while the facility will have plenty of fun amenities to offer the community, the district also wants it to provide an array of programming opportunities that cater to many of the aquatic needs in Decatur and its surrounding areas.
"(The water park) not only gives you an opportunity for competitive swimming, but also will be an area where we'd teach our swimming classes, lifeguard classes, lap swimming for fitness ... In the world of fitness, your park district provides many opportunities to engage in healthy lifestyles for all ages and stages of life," he said.
Ultimately, Livergood said the board still has the choice to decline the alternate bid once the contractor begins working at the pool site. If the district does decide to pass on the alternate bid, it will be reimbursed for that portion of Westport's total bid. "It provides them flexibility down the road," he said.
The pool is a major aspect of the district's water park project, which has been a part of its lakefront development plans for more than five years. In November 2016, the board unanimously opted to build the new Nelson Park aquatic center rather than renovating or replacing the aging Fairview Park Pool, which will close once the new water park opens.
Funding for the water park comes from a $10.7 million alternate revenue bond to be repaid over 20 years.
The park district initially planned for the water park to be completed by summer 2018, but has since pushed back its targeted opening date to 2019. During a board meeting in October, the commissioners decided to do so after work bids from five contractors came in too high.
As a way to save money, district leaders decided in October to break the project into phases. Livergood said Architectural Expressions received a total of nine bids for the whole project on April 28. The board voted on two of the project bids during the meeting, he said.
The other bid considered on Wednesday was for underground civil utilities work, but Livergood recommended that the board reject it because the firm couldn't justify its cost of $922,800. The board voted 5-0 to reject that bid, and Livergood said the work will now be broken up into separate elements and re-bid in an effort to cut costs.
Waiting to do the underground work later will not slow down any progress at the work site, Livergood told the board.
"The work that you approved last year for the earth grading has brought us very close to the final grade, so this is not in the way of any one contractor starting their work," he said.
The seven other bids will be presented to the board for consideration in the coming weeks, Livergood said, and include mechanical, electrical, plumbing and parking lot work. As for the water slides that will be featured at the facility, Livergood said they are currently being fabricated and will be integrated into the project's construction schedule at a future date.
In other business Wednesday, the board voted to name Chris Harrison as its new president. Previous President Bob Brilley II will remain on the board as a commissioner. Riley will assume Harrison's former position of vice president.