The Canal Winchester Interurban Building renovation appears to have jumped the tracks, at least temporarily.

The Canal Winchester Interurban Building renovation appears to have jumped the tracks, at least temporarily.

The historic building that served as a station along the Columbus Interurban electrified trolley system, connecting Canal Winchester to downtown Columbus and beyond, was scheduled to be renovated for meeting and event space and to open next spring.

However, the construction bid process netted only one response -- and it was double the estimate for the project.

Construction Services Administrator Bill Sims told Canal Winchester City Council at its Dec. 7 meeting the single bid from J.S. Brown was technically submitted past the Dec. 1 deadline for bids and came in at about $180,000. The original estimate for the work, prepared by FMS Architects, was about $90,000.

The city had budgeted $150,000 total for the project before receiving the estimate.

"The bid was roughly twice the architect's estimate and so obviously, we have concerns," Sims said. "In talking to the architect and the bidder, I think we did have an underestimation, but definitely not by twice, given the small quantity of work."

Sims said he believes the timing of the bid release so near the end of the year and the holidays, along with the bidder's inexperience with public projects, caused the bid process to fail.

"The contractor that bid doesn't normally work with public projects, which include things like prevailing wage and bonding issues, so we think they were a little nervous about expenses and built too much padding in there," Sims said.

To try to keep the project on track for being completed in 2016, Canal Winchester City Council agreed to Sims' request to waive the formal competitive bidding process so the city staff may negotiate a deal between a subset of contractors that have previously worked with the city.

"Like I'd said, I don't think we were $90,000 off," Sims said. "We'd budgeted earlier that we'd be at about $150,000.

"When we were talking to the bidder about the project, they had a lot of questions, so we might be able to get closer with someone else," he said. "I think if we have the opportunity to go out and find folks who really do this type of work that's up their alley, we'll get a good product within our budget."

Sims will have to return at a future meeting and introduce legislation to complete a new procurement process, which he stated he intends to do at the final meeting of the year on Dec. 21.