SCHENECTADY — The $5.5 million project to construct a modern pool in Central Park has doubled in cost due to cost overruns and an expanded scope of work on the project.
In August 2022, the Schenectady City Council approved $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for the construction of a new pool facility within the park, with an additional $1 million subsequently approved the next month for general site improvements to the pool area.
At the council’s Finance Committee meeting on Monday night, City Engineer Chris Wallin appeared before the board to present a chosen bid from the project that would bring the total cost of the project to $10.1 million, with the city asking the council to approve an additional $5.2 million to fund the pool project.
During the meeting City Councilman John Mootooveren asked Wallin if the increased costs were due to overruns or an increase in the scale of the project.
“I would say that it’s probably a little of each thing,” Wallin replied. “As we started with the project, we worked to develop the location. We started finding the needs of the facility. The facility that was there previously was a tennis stadium. A lot of people don’t know that the tennis stadium did not have a sanitary line, it had septic tanks in the ground. This is a public facility that we’re looking to use essentially from May 1 to Oct. 31. So things like sanitary and a permanent water line, a more robust electric system, all of those things needed to come in and those were substantial.”
Wallin noted that a splash pad will be installed at the complex for use from Memorial Day until Labor Day, with the main pool normally available for use in July and August.
Wallin told the board that the splash pad is the most prominent addition to the project.
In the aftermath of the council’s initial approval of the project, a pool committee was assembled that included Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and members of the community and local organizations.
The project was put out to bid in January, with a $7.2 million bid for general contracting services awarded to the Jersen Construction Group in Waterford, with an additional $516,000 electrical bid awarded to the O’Connell Electric Company.
The first phase of the project saw the demolition of the former tennis stadium at the pool site, with phase two consisting of the cleaning and grading of the planned pool location.
The council expressed doubts about the rising costs of the pool project.
“It’s a very large concern that it’s double the original estimate,” Board President Marion Porterfield said following Monday’s meeting. “That’s why I want us to really take a look at what’s going on here and to make sure that everything needs to be done. Originally we talked about doing this in stages. So there’s an expectation that there will be an increase in costs based on the construction, but when a project doubles in cost then it’s time to take a pause and take a look at it.”
With Councilmembers Carmel Patrick, Doreen Ditoro and John Polimeni absent for the discussion, Porterfield said she would like the entire board to discuss the project before potentially moving forward.
“This [project] has grown tremendously,” she said during the meeting. “So that for me is a concern that we heard about after the growth of it, as opposed to on the front end of it. So I just want to take a little bit more time to absorb all of that.”
With the bids set to expire on Feb. 26, Mootooveren noted the council could hold special Finance Committee and council meetings to address the issue if necessary.
“It’s not only cost overruns, they’ve added to the scope of work that the council was not aware of,” he said on Tuesday. “They added scope of work for facilities without naming anything. They put it out to bid without informing the council or coming to the council. They went ahead and bid it and now they’re coming to the council to approve it.”
The committee tabled a pair of contracts for the project set to appear on the agenda during the City Development & Planning with the council asking for more information on the proposal before approving any additional funds.
McCarthy said during the meeting that the current pool site in the park is not feasible in the long term.
“We are under pressure to close the existing swimming facility because it just does not meet current code issues,” he said. “We were able to keep it open in 2022 working with the county. This timeline will probably not get it open as early as I would like. Until we award the contract and sit down with the contractor, we won’t have a definite timeline. But the option becomes that we’re going to have to close that other swimming facility.”
The council has asked the engineering department to provide more details about the increased costs of the project before moving forward with a vote on the additional funds.
“I think it’s wise that the council look at what was added and why it was added,” Mootooveren said on Tuesday. “Then we can address it and move forward. But there was a sense that yesterday [Monday] members were not happy that this scope of work was added without informing the council and now you’re coming to the council for us to approve something that we were not informed about and you’re asking us for $5.2 million when we already set aside $5.5 million to take care of the Central Park pool and facilities.”
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Hit the pause button on the splash pad for starters.