In August, the Schenectady City Council was led to believe that a new swimming pool for Central Park would cost about $4.5 million.
The old pool needs to be replaced, and the city has few outdoor pools available for families to enjoy during the summer. Central Park is an ideal location, centrally located to serve many of the city’s neighborhoods.
Finding $4.5 million a reasonable price to pay, and with millions of federal pandemic aid to spend on community projects, council members authorized the funding for the project.
A month later, they were asked to approve another $1 million for site improvements, bringing the price to about $5.5 million. That’s pretty expensive, but still seemingly worth the cost.
Now here we are in February, and city officials are just learning that the project cost has nearly doubled to $10.1 million, thanks in part due to cost overruns and in part due to add-ons to the project that the council was not made aware of until now.
Some of the expanded, more expensive project has already been put out to bid, leaving the council with the dilemma of being asked on very little notice to approve a lot more money than they intended to spend on the pool.
Killing the whole project and starting from scratch, including getting new bids on elements of the project already put out to bid, could significantly delay the start of the project and result in even higher costs. So that’s an unlikely option.
Among the unexpected additions to the original project was a slash pad. Since the city already has three splash pads — in Tribute Park, Wallingford Park and Woodlawn Park, could it make do without an additional one in Central Park, especially if there’s a new pool there?
Is there time to revise and rebid the project to get the pool built by this summer? Could they possibly squeeze another summer out of the existing pool, or is that not feasible. That would put more pressure on the council to approve a revised project pretty quickly.
Are there other ways to save time and money, such as by having city crews do some of the work that’s being bid out? Also, is federal covid aid still available that they could apply to the pool project to help offset the higher costs?
Members of the city Finance Committee were rightly upset at not being informed about the expanded scope and higher cost of the project.
After they decide on how to proceed with the pool, they need to investigate how the project was able to change so significantly and how costs were able to escalate so much without their knowledge. They might find they need to put new rules in place to ensure the council is made aware of major changes to future projects.
This whole mess could have been avoided with more communication and more attention to fiscal restraint.
The council would be wise to take time to review the best options before going ahead with a plan they thought they’d already approved.
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Well stated op/ed. For some reason this council, as stewards of taxpayer money, is being continually treated as an non existent entity. That’s what checks and balances are supposed to be about. Again, I can’t understand how this project got underway and to this point of land clearing without bids along with spec sheets in good order. This seems like and is, much more than simple cost overruns. Makes one wonder!