Plans to construct a new track and field facility at Charlottesville High School have hit a bump in the road — no contractors have submitted bids, which were due May 25.
The new facility would upgrade the current track from six to eight lanes and add new bleachers and restrooms, along with other improvements. Charlottesville High would be able to host track and field meets with the new facility, which has been impossible with its current amenities.
“I think it’s fair to say that everyone is certainly disappointed that we didn’t receive any bids, but we’re not surprised by that and we’re also optimistic, looking forward,” said Mike Mollica, the city’s facilities development division manager and capital projects coordinator.
Although construction originally was anticipated to start Aug. 31 with a completion date of Jan. 31, the city now plans to rebid the project in the fall for spring construction.
“The CHS track was initially funded about a year ago by the City Council for design, and the design process for a project of that magnitude takes about a year, generally,” Mollica said. “We knew that we would be facing about a late-April, early-May bidding period. We also knew that was late in the game to be bidding a project for potential construction beginning in the summer.”
The project went out to bid in late April. Mollica said it attracted interest from a number of potential bidders, but the project may not have fit into contractors’ already-busy summer schedules.
“Right now, the local and regional construction market is red-hot,” Mollica said. “And many of the general contractors who would be bidding a job like this are already completely booked for the summer.”
Mollica said spring construction also would eliminate some of the challenges associated with cooler temperatures in the fall, which can complicate track surface installation.
The city has spent $100,000 on the civil engineering and design work for the track with the Timmons Group and Thrive Architecture. It also has allocated $1,666,200 for the track project in the fiscal year 2018 budget.
The track is not the only local capital project facing bidding challenges. On May 16, Albemarle County announced it would not make an award for the Hydraulic Road and Barracks Road sidewalk projects because all bids received were over budget.
The county issued a new invitation for bids May 24.
“Right now, the market is pretty saturated with work,” county transportation engineer Jack Kelsey said. “We’ve made some changes to the time for completion to try to give contractors more flexibility rather than restricting them to our schedule to try to make it more convenient so they can fit it into their schedule, which we think will help with the saturation issue.”
The county was hoping the work would be completed by December, but the newly issued project manual includes a substantial completion date of July 1, 2018.
In the city, the four bids for the McIntire Skate Park all came in over budget in January. The estimated cost of the new park was $1.7 million, but the lowest bid came in from the firm Martin Horn at about $2.4 million. The other three bids came in near or above $3 million.
“We are in negotiations with the low bidder, and I can’t really say anything more than that at this point,” Charlottesville Parks & Recreation Director Brian Daly said in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow. “We hope to finalize those negotiations very soon.”
When asked how the city brings down costs when bids come in over budget, Daly reiterated that he could not comment on the specific negotiations for the skate park, but he identified several strategies that can be used to help lower costs.
“Value engineering exercises regarding material selection and volume, examination of means and methods, construction sequencing, substitution of subcontractors, phasing of scheduling and elimination of segments of project scope are all opportunities to address potential cost reductions,” Daly said.
Like Mollica and Kelsey, Daly said he also has observed an increased workload for local contractors.
“We have noticed bids coming in higher than initial estimates over the past few months. I personally attribute that to local contractors having a lot of work lined up currently,” Daly said. “Normally, when economic times are good and construction contractors are busy, prices go up.”