After receiving five bids for its planned connector between the Alum Creek and Sharon Woods multi-use trails, Westerville City Council was forced to reject all of them as too costly.
All five of the bids were at least $100,000 more than the city budgeted. A bid of about $526,000 was the lowest, for a project engineers had estimated would come in with about $409,000 as a base bid.
The most expensive of the bids was about $560,000, and each bid included alternate additions that would add another $13,000 and $36,000 to the project cost.
The planned connector would be a 4,000-foot asphalt multi-use path that would run between the two trails. The contract also would include the installation of a 60-foot wooden pedestrian bridge, bus shelter relocation and other improvements.
Parks and Recreation Director Randy Auler said that differences in pricing come from transportation costs, fuel costs and a difference in budget for the wooden bridge.
The new section of trail is to go through property owned by Mount Carmel St. Ann's Hospital, which provided an easement to make the cross-through possible, and Franklin Country Metro Parks is partnering with the city on the project, paying half of the costs. The Sharon Woods trail is in Sharon Woods Metro Park.
Plans for the path are still not set in stone, and Auler said that there are still logistics to work out.
"We wanted to get this out to bid earlier in the year," he said. "However, it's taken us longer to work with all the stockholders in terms of the alignment for the project. We're still working on that with some of the stakeholders."
Councilman Mike Heyeck said the snag in plans represents a larger problem for the city.
"I understand all the variables and whatnot, but we had a street rehab bid, and that actually came in OK," he said. "Anything below half a million dollars, we've really got to combine it with other projects to take advantage of the scale. ... We get impaired by these lower-end projects, particularly if there's some specialty involved."
Trails were identified by the newly city's updated Parks and Recreation Master Plan as one of the most desired additions to the Westerville parks system, and Auler said the connection remains a priority.
"If we're not able to find some ways to get it within our budget, then we'll look at perhaps coming back with some of our smaller projects and delaying those and asking council to utilize those funds to make this project happen, because it is an important connection for us," he said.
City staff will be discussing the matter with design consultant EMH&T "to investigate the disparity between the engineer's estimate and bids."
The Parks Department's original timeline for the project was to have bidding occur in May, and construction happening by the end of the summer. But with the rebidding process set to occur during the final quarter of 2014, the construction timeline now is unknown.